The term ‘data science’ gets thrown around an awful lot, and there’s no doubt that it’s shaping our world every day. However, many of us aren’t clear on what data science actually is, much less how it’s relevant to the average person’s life. Let’s take a look.
Data science is essentially the art of finding patterns within large sets of data. A data scientist will extract large amounts of data and then, through careful modeling, use the information to make predictions. These predictions are then used by businesses and other organizations to make decisions.
For example, a data scientist might work with a company and focus their efforts on what products consumers are buying and which products they are not. They could then cross-reference this data with other information, such as the season or world events (like the pandemic). From this, they can begin to make predictions about what consumers will want to buy over the next twelve months. The company can then target their marketing around these predictions, and because they are targeting what the consumer already wants to buy, their campaigns will be much more successful. This is, of course, a very crude example, but hopefully, it illustrates the point!
Data scientists must have excellent problem-solving abilities, which they can use to find patterns and solutions in the industry that they have been employed in. However, it’s not always about marketing. Data scientists are crucial in developing Artificial Intelligence and solving larger-scale problems that affect huge groups of people. We’ll go on to discuss this later in the article.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean pay for data scientists in 2019 was $100,560 per year, so it’s certainly a well-remunerated profession. The largest employers of data scientists are computer system design companies, but they are also employed in many other sectors, such as management, marketing, and scientific research. Generally, to work as a data scientist, you will need a master’s degree, making sense as it’s such a complex role!
The good news is that master’s degrees are becoming more accessible. More institutions are offering their courses online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They have invested a lot of money in making sure that their online offerings provide the same educational experience as a course at bricks-and-mortar campuses. For example, Baylor University offers an online master’s in data science where you can learn mathematics, statistics, and computer science disciplines along with advanced techniques of data mining, machine learning, and visualization.
The decision to invest more money in online learning is an example of data science at work. Data scientists will have seen more people looking for online courses while they were at home during the lockdown. After consideration, they will have decided that this predicted a trend towards online education. This trend’s prediction will have been what swayed the university’s decisions to invest more money and resources into online courses development.
Data science impacts nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and this isn’t an exaggeration. Some of the ways data science is used are:
- Marketing: Every time you see an advert on your Facebook or Instagram account, this results from a data scientist’s work. They will have gathered information from Facebook or Instagram about the viewing habits of users in certain demographics. From this, they have calculated which adverts are the most likely to catch your attention. This can sound a little ominous, but it does benefit you because it means that you only see adverts that are actually relevant to you. Much better than seeing ones that are of no interest!
- Customer Acquisition: In a similar way to marketing, data science is used to determine which groups of people are likely to be interested in a company’s product and how best to serve it to them. The data scientist will analyze the needs of the consumer, and from this, the company will be able to tailor products that best meet their customer’s needs.
- Innovation: This is where data science starts to get exciting. Large data sets will be used to determine the pain points of large portions of the population, and then companies will work to address those pain points by creating new products or services. For example, Google created their ‘maps’ service to address the issue that many people were having to drive and read a paper map at the same time or have to stop and ask strangers for directions. For Google to invest the huge amounts of capital and effort required to develop maps, they first had to ascertain that it was worth it and that people would actually want to use it. This is where data science comes in. Thanks to data science, companies worldwide are working to make our lives easier without us even knowing about it!
- Solving Global Issues: Possibly one of the most important ways data science is used is resolving global issues. A perfect example is the coronavirus pandemic. Data science is used to monitor where the disease has spread and what groups of people are catching it. More than that, though, data science is used to analyze people’s behaviors in the run-up to outbreaks and then after the outbreaks have occurred. By doing this data, scientists can create models for how large groups of people are likely to behave, how this might impact the spread of the virus, and what government organizations need to do to mitigate the spread.
As mentioned previously, data science is also contributing to the development of Artificial Intelligence. It is in its infancy but is already being used in the medical field for more accurate diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and the automotive field for self-driving cars!