Monday, May 27, 2013

"Data Science": Just a Buzzword?

Fred Ross writes:
A good hunk of the data science certificate gets taught to physics majors in one semester of their second or third year at University of Virginia as “Fundamentals of scientific computing”. I single out University of Virginia’s class as an example because I happened to be there when it started in 2005, and remember talking about what should be in it with Bob Hirosky, its creator. My friends were the teaching assistants.

And the topics in these certificates are the basics, not the advanced material. Not that there aren’t legions of professional analysts out there with less statistical skill and no knowledge of programming, but no one would dream of giving them a title other than “Excel grunt”—sure, gussied up somehow to stroke their ego, but that’s what it comes down to.
Here's the original NY Times article Ross references, which describes "data science" as a hot new field.  There's some truth to Ross' claim that journalists have pumped up data and science as the new big thing to report on.

I don't know about you, but data and science go hand in hand.  There aren't any scientists (that I know of) that don't work with data.  But more fundamentally, you can't expect to understand what to do in science without the ability to analyze data in ways more abstract than what's given from default outputs of algorithms or R vignettes, and you can't imagine what to do with your data with understanding even a little about the science than went into generating it. 

A data science certificate is a small part on the way towards becoming a "Data Scientist" but it won't magically convert you into one of these folks.