Technologies wax and wane, with the passage of time bringing new and different focuses for the world and its economies. One focus that has emerged in recent years is the importance of data and the many ways it can affect seemingly every area of life. To delve deeper into the field and examine its impact, we looked to the work done by Jonathan Cornelissen, a pioneer in the field of data science education. That look, coupled with an examination of the applications of data science at present, will serve to show readers just how much modern life is connected to this ever-changing field.
Education and Career
Cornelissen’s foray into data science began while he was pursuing his doctorate in econometrics. Over the course of that education, he was required to learn the programming language R, a language specifically devoted to data analysis. While learning the language, he found that there was a lack of engaging resources to help those who were running into obstacles in their education. This observation came back in full force when he was later taught a class in which the students needed to learn R. Their struggles reminded him of his own difficulties and again pointed to the need for a platform that could help teach the language.
Based on these experiences, the tech entrepreneur decided to create a company that could satisfy the need for engaging education in the field of data science. Not only did he feel that such a tool would be helpful for those seeking to learn R, but he also felt that the field of data science was expanding and that more and more people would need to learn related skills in the coming years. After creating a prototype with a small team of partners, the entrepreneur took the project out for wide funding. Eventually, it turned into DataCamp, which is today recognized as one of the premier resources for data science education in the world.
Power of Information
One reason that Cornelissen believed that the field of data was going to expand was his estimate of the sheer power of data when there’s a large enough sample size. With enough data points, accurate predictions can be made that let data users make informed decisions in even seemingly complex situations. However, when there’s a lack of data, such predictions can be difficult or even impossible. While a lack of data has previously been a problem in the field, the internet has increasingly made that hurdle a thing of the past.
With the proliferation of more advanced sources of data that accompany internet use and other aspects of modern technology, companies are learning more than ever before about customer preferences, successful business models, and more. These data sets provide talented data professionals with opportunities to change the course of a company’s decisions based on their work. With that in mind, and knowing that access to data was going to increase even more in years to come, the entrepreneur behind DataCamp predicted that there would be an increased demand for data professionals moving forward.
Applications of Data
While data can mean big changes for a company in terms of how it designs and develops products, it can also have a broad and lasting effect in many other areas of life. For instance, the field of city management has seen plenty of benefits from increased access to data. Seeing how traffic patterns change based on small alterations to city planning can have big ramifications for how public transportation is designed. Crime data can also change the way neighborhoods are built. In fact, data has been seen by some as one of the big drivers of lowered crime rates in many cities over the years.
Another big application of data is the fight against climate change. As greenhouse gasses continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, many parts of the world are seeing their climates change in various permanent ways. To combat this, governments around the world are using data collection and prediction models to lower their environmental impacts. With better data analysis comes the ability to understand the biggest contributors to climate change and what can be done to change policies in a positive direction.
Looking to the Future
With the increase in data collection and analysis, many of the positive effects of data science have already been felt. That hasn’t stopped data scientists from striving for improvement and thinking up new ways that working with data may benefit society in the future. One area that they have discussed is the ability for data to improve HR practices. At present, hiring new employees can be somewhat of an uncertain affair; though a new hire may look good on paper, they might not pan out when brought on to a team. Using data analysis to better predict when a new hire may be a good fit could be a boon to companies moving forward.
The founder of DataCamp has also discussed the ways that data, through anonymous surveys, can be used to improve the satisfaction of employees that are already working in a company. Such surveys can provide companies with a look at what needs to be changed to improve the employee experience. While the challenge here lies in knowing which questions to ask, when used appropriately, data collection in support of HR practices can create a happier and more productive workforce – a benefit for all.
Though the trend has been in place for some time, it is now clear that the field of data science is seeing a kind of explosive growth that it has never before witnessed. With data collection coming into its own, the ways that we use data for the public good is also reaching new heights. Educational initiatives, such as the company formed by Cornelissen, are also playing a huge role in the development of the field of data science. An examination of this field reveals the many exciting ways it has changed the world and the ways it will continue to do so in the coming years.