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News & Insights

News & Insights

Where Do Data Scientists Come From?

One of the corollaries to the big data meme is that the world is woefully short of data science professionals. This observation requires some context, however, because the definition of what a data scientist _is_ is a matter of some debate. Some define data science as statistical analysis while others look at data as “information” or “content” and see the science of data as more related to the creation, management, and curation of content.

In terms of the education required for a career in data science, students’ approaches usually depend on their own definition of the data science career path. In other words, statisticians prefer to take more math and economics classes than those who prepare themselves for the content business by taking English and other liberal arts courses.

Of all the graduate programs available to future data scientists, however, the one that is the most intriguing is information science. There are several outstanding graduate schools of “information”—Information Evolution is a proud supporter of the University of Texas’s School of Information—all of which were once called library schools. (N.b.: The SIIA Content Division has graciously allowed UT information school graduates to attend their events in exchange for volunteer time. It seems that they, too, recognize these smart young folks as an important part of the future of our industry.)

These programs continue to aggressively include more technical classes as the world of information becomes more and more electronic. Human-computer interfaces, for instance, are the essential gateways to information, so information school graduates leave these programs with a deep understanding of the design and function of these interfaces. Similarly, preserving digital information is an emerging area of concern for all purveyors of online information. Information schools are also one of the few places in academia analyzing how electronic information can be truly preserved for the analysis of posterity.

Other critical issues related to the business of information include the ownership and dissemination of information, limitations on individual or corporate “rights” to privacy, and use of user-generated and crowd-sourced information. No other academic discipline produces graduates so uniquely qualified to understand the context of information (who uses it, why they use it, etc.), which is absolutely essential to designing and running these services, the way that information schools do. This is what makes them such an important resource both to our public institutions and, increasingly, to the companies in the business of selling information.

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