Data scientists: Poised to Change the World

By CIOReview | Monday, September 24, 2018
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A crucial and growing field, mainly in tech startups, data science can endow one with an exalted position. The skills of a data scientist are the most sought after and if utilized properly can impact the society for the greater good. Several crucial issues can be resolved like improved mental health care, increased cancer survival rates, cleansing the oceans, and better protection for people during disaster situations by combining the power of data analytics and machine learning .

Developing a new delivery app or devising better mechanisms to target ads are designed to make our lives simpler. However, in contrast to this there is a segment whose career decisions are driven by a social mission. Data Scientists fall into the latter category and are prepared to bring about a global transformation.

Attempting to make an impact on the society, many data scientists are making the transition from a desire to work for bigger companies to more mission-driven organizations. Even though the massive data science teams at FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) continue to attract top-level talent, a considerable segment of data scientists are leaving or avoiding companies like these in order to build something new or in the hope of contributing to something that they feel is more meaningful like, curing cancer, conserving energy, tracking infectious diseases, or personalizing education. More and more data scientists are becoming interested in trying to make the world a better place.

Data science is more established in some industries while it is a growing discipline in other domains like healthcare, fintech, and transportation. Data science is being utilized by healthcare startups to inch closer to personalized medicine and using artificial intelligence to examine images like x-rays and MRIs to diagnose problems quickly and accurately. An example of great use of data is DataKind where data scientists are brought together from different fields to assist non-profit organizations with their most troubling data challenges.  As regards to transportation, real-time traffic and weather data can be made use of by traffic management agencies to predict traffic flows and manage emergency responses. Thus to speak, newer applications are in the offering, as the utilization of data science in these industries matures.

The dearth of experienced data science talent to adequately embark on all of these new projects is a critical issue that has continued to afflict companies in every industry. Everyone has struggled to find talent beyond the entry level irrespective of the industry; in advertising, life sciences, government, cybersecurity, insurance, technology, or finance. Of late, the demand for data scientists has been increasing by the day as several organizations are coming onboard to be a part of the data science revolution. This is primarily because the data scientists hold the key to unveiling better solutions to old problems. Even new problems as well as new approaches may be highlighted by them in the long run. Although there has been an improved ‘supply’, availability of qualified data scientists are still not upto the mark. However, more educational options including new Master’s degrees, MOOCs, and bootcamps, have sprung up to try and meet this need.

Combining all these factors will lead to a lot of changes over the next few years. The use of data science will become more ubiquitous, with an improved talent supply, and there will be even more use cases for these techniques, reaching far beyond the few examples of current uses.

It has been established that data science has the power to transform businesses and industries and now it is evident that it has the capability of bringing about a global change. Being mission-driven is a movement which is not going to end anytime soon as these projects are being run by individuals, who are passionate about both the data and the problems that they want to solve. This is fuelled by a desire to creating a meaningful and positive change.

A growing pool of data scientists are making a foray into fields like education, economic development, and healthcare, where their skills can be applied to causes they deeply care about and be the change that they want to see. The next few years are going to be a crucial period that will determine how comfortable we want to be with data. It is essential that we figure out ways to safeguard our personal information while defining the acceptable use of data.

It is a known fact now that the skills and expertise of data scientists have applications far beyond the tech and business sectors. As data inevitably continues to increase in quality and volume, the value of data scientists is going to exceed expectations. There isn’t an iota of doubt that data scientists have the potential to make a difference.