Emerging World of Data Science

The days of parents pushing kids to pursue ‘guaranteed money-making careers’ in healthcare and the law may be coming to an end. Data Science is emerging as one of the hottest new professions of the 21st Century. In fact, Harvard Business Review deemed data science as the sexiest job of the 21st century, and the demand for data scientists is racing ahead of the supply.

“According to Burtch Works’ 2014 study of salaries for data scientists… those responsible for a team of 1-3 earn [a median salary of] $140,000 and those responsible for a team of 10 or more earn $232,500.

By contrast, the mean average annual income for a lawyer in America was $131,990 in 2013, while doctors earned $183,940, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Source: Compensation of Data Scientists: Insights from the Past Year

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So what exactly is data science? And what do data scientists do?

Put simply, data science is the deep extraction of knowledge from large volumes of data. It often involves using mathematical and algorithmic techniques to solve analytically complex problems. Data science is growing in importance as more and more companies realize they can use analytics to increase efficiency, by pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of their operations.

Earlier this year, the White House announced the appointment of its very first Chief Data Scientist, Dr. DJ Patil – a man who is credited with coining the term ‘Data Science’. In its announcement, the White House administration emphasized its belief in “the power of data to deliver value.

Data is essentially a collection of information, such as numbers, words, images, measurements, observations, or even just a description of things. Data can be stored anywhere: in print, in our minds, as well as in the bits and bytes in computer memory. In recent years, Datathons (24-hour workshops that ask researchers to do their best to turn data into knowledge) have become popular events for  helping society. A recent Datathon in Calgary analyzed the Distress Centre’s 1.25 million call records to identify trends and ideas for how the organization could better utilize its resources.

Today’s world is filled with endless data. Thanks to advances in big data analysis and visualizations, new understandings are being drawn from every aspect of our lives, and will be used to shape the operations of future societies. Making data-driven decisions is becoming pervasive – not just for startups or technology companies. It is opening up new possibilities and new avenues of research and understanding. But how will our world of data be analyzed and used? And who will be doing the analyses? Humans or Machines?

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Some of the answers to these questions will be answered at this year’s cross-Prairies Cyber Summit. The summit will focus on the evolving discipline of data science and how it affects all citizens, from children to professionals. This unique event, geared towards startups, educators and the public sector, will focus on the inspirational side of technologies: how they help people work more efficiently and learn in new ways. It will also give tips on the practicalities of making it happen (getting started, policies, and issues to keep in mind). The Summit will take place September 29-30, 2015 at The Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, with pre-conference workshops being held on September 28.