Data scientists of the future flock to free online course

Home Technologist Online Data scientists of the future flock to free online course

Data science is no doubt a hot topic, as attested by all the excitement around ‘big data’, the growing demand for data scientists — and more than 25,000 participants in a free online course launched today by a Dutch university.

Illustration of digital data

Whether ‘data scientist’ is ‘the sexiest job of the 21st Century’, as suggested two years ago in Harvard Business Review, is debatable — and depends on your definition of ‘sexy’. This notion of the sexiest job – and the upgrade from decade to century – follows on from a comment back in 2009 by Google’s chief economist Hal Varian, who famously said: “The sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?”.

Wil van der Aalst, one of the world’s most frequently cited computer scientists and professor of information systems at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e’s) in the Netherlands, certainly thinks ‘data scientist’ is the most exciting job of the century for many people.

The strong interest in the field is attested by the sign-up of more than 25,000 participants from 169 countries for a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in data science, launched today at TU/e.

In the free six-week course, called Process Mining: Data Science in Action and open to everyone with an internet connection, Van der Aalst will teach techniques to extract valuable knowledge out of big data. Participants are encouraged to apply the techniques using open datasets from applications such as Twitter or Facebook.

From big data to big savings

In the future, organisations that are not able to use data in a smart way will struggle to survive. On the other hand, those that adapt to make the most out of ‘big data’ will be much better equipped to match information systems to customers’ needs, reduce costs, fight fraud and so on.

“The growing volume of available data in society means there’s more need than ever for engineers who not only can handle this big data, but can also get valuable information out of it for companies and organisations,” Van der Aalst says.

Examples of applications range from understanding the browsing behaviour of customers using a booking site to analysing failures of a baggage handling system or treatment processes in hospitals. In all of these applications, dynamic behaviour needs to be related to what data scientists call process models.

For example, a hospital promises patients that it will treat them within one month, but doesn’t succeed in doing so – why does that happen? “Process mining shows you how to make a process like that more efficient. In a case like this, it can mean big cost savings”, Van der Aalst says.

– Adapted from TU/e News

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