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ACM TechNews

Big Data's High-Priests of Algorithms

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data scientist as Superman


Industry demand for data scientists has exploded over the years, concurrent with a boom in the generation of data from advanced technologies such as smartphones. Merchants, banks, manufacturers, and many other businesses are looking for people who are especially skilled in sifting through massive volumes of data streaming in from different sources for patterns into customer habits and in crafting predictive statistical models.

The U.S. National Science Foundation says data scientists are usually hired from the statistics, biostatistics, particle physics, and computer science fields, and 2012 saw approximately 2,500 doctorates awarded in those disciplines. Some data scientists say they felt drawn to industry positions because funding for purely scientific research was cut back during the recession.

Employers increasingly are seeking assistance from the Insight Data Science Fellows Program, which helps transition doctoral candidates from fields such as astrophysics, neuroscience, and math into professional data scientists. The program has a 100-percent placement rate, and alumni work in data-science teams at established as well as novice Silicon Valley companies.

Some data scientists recruited in non-academic settings say their work can be surprisingly rewarding and meaningful, even in the absence of the greater intellectual challenges of basic research.

From The Wall Street Journal
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