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Data science is a team sport

In 2012, Harvard Business Review caused a splash by labelling data scientist as the sexiest job of the 21st Century. Data science has continued to be an emerging profession and one that is predicted to be much in need by business.

As we’ve heard from Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Tom Pinder, a data scientist must have domain expertise or sufficient capability to be able to consult and understand fundamental experts; thorough and creative computing skills along with a sound base in statistics. A data scientist must also be persistent because obtaining useful datasets (that means the right information in a usable format), can be a challenge but is a significant part of the process. Finally, a data scientist must be capable of communicating effectively, enabling the data to tell the story (eg through visualisations), and to communicate with and understand clients.

Data science is a demanding profession and whilst the four key skills can be attained by individuals, it is more likely that a data science team – where a few individuals work together but excel at different requirements – is a practical solution.

A quick look at the IEA data team reveals expertise in data-driven decision support, designing software with intuitive interfaces and accessible visualisations, programming in high and low level languages, administrating e-infrastructure, data intensive analysis and software engineering. Many of the team have grown into their current roles, for example bringing the big data skills of astrophysics to environmental issues, or taking their top computer science skills and then going back to study weather and climate before moving to the IEA.

The IEA focuses on how environmental data can provide solutions for environmental issues in both an innovative and thorough way, but ultimately data science needs to be able to turn its hand to so many issues. The strength most often lies in putting expertise together in a good team.

If you’re keen to find out more about a career in data science you may like to read this short article, ‘What’s a data scientist and how do I become one?’, on the Guardian website.

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Big Data and the Environment

University of Reading

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