Data Science That Makes a Difference - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Data Management // Big Data Analytics
Commentary
9/24/2014
01:06 PM
Vijay Raghavan
Vijay Raghavan
Commentary
50%
50%

Data Science That Makes a Difference

Big data is about more than just business. It holds potential to address social problems and improve the lives of people around the world.

and vet each other more quickly, buoyed by information run through high-performance computing clusters that calculate risk in a given context.

Data for good begins on a grassroots level
When I reflect on my professional journey over the past 25 years, I owe much to my early years working in a tiny startup. I developed collaboration skills there, by wearing multiple hats so I could view a problem from different angles. Most productive technologists and data scientists can probably trace their success back to sharpening their ability to examine data critically and coming up with platforms, tools, and methods to aggregate and link the data quickly, meaningfully, and accurately. Such skills are more necessary than ever today as we encounter new challenges and data that require new tools and methods.

Harvesting actionable data insights for the greater good starts in one's own organization or community. Innovation and meetings of the minds between cross-functional areas are critical to nudge a theory into a practical and useful deliverable. Our company holds internal symposia, where we share what we've learned about the data sets and tools we are working on. This confluence of ideas across departments is innovation in the making. For instance, one person's hypothesis about certain individuals' access to government benefits in correlation to certain assets that the person owned was a catalyst that led to new tools for the prevention of fraud, waste, and abuse.

The discovery of such linkages between entities (such as research papers) can save time and eliminate lengthy processes. Recommendation engines powered by these kinds of techniques, for instance, can transform a search for the right information into a real-time suggestion. Recently, a scientist, desperate for one last piece of information to connect the dots, turned to Elsevier's Science Direct and instantly discovered exactly what he was looking for. His Twitter feed expressed his satisfaction: "I'd like to buy the maker of that recommendation engine a beer!"

Connections made at the personal or local level can fuel tremendous opportunities. For instance, US municipalities are aggregating crime rates, utility information, population rates, and other data to create "heat maps" that help homebuyers make purchasing decisions and governments address infrastructure and funding issues. The data has always been there, but depicting patterns in a visual way lets users act on it in unprecedented ways. Now individuals are helping fix communities, inspired by the ability to examine information in a way that reveals new possibilities for change.

Forging a path forward
Harnessing data for actionable insights requires talented data scientists who see non-obvious linkages in data. That could be one reason that no single approach to training creates a good data scientist; the next data scientist sitting beside you may be a former marine biologist. Data science is a mindset and a discipline, and new people are being drawn to the field. The use of data for good is happening at the local level, in businesses, and in the world at large. I encourage you to seize the opportunity to be a part of this movement.

If you just look at vendor financials, the enterprise storage business seems stuck in neutral. However, flat revenue numbers mask a scorching pace of technical innovation, ongoing double-digit capacity growth in enterprises, and dramatic changes in how and where businesses store data. Get the 2014 State of Storage report today. (Free registration required.)

Vijay Raghavan is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for the risk solutions business of LexisNexis® and for Reed Business Information. In this position, he is responsible for technology development, research and development, information ... View Full Bio
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
pfretty
100%
0%
pfretty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/13/2014 | 10:57:09 AM
Great post!
We often hear that data is all about insight. However in reality, data should be able meaningful actions based off the insights. This is true whether its impacting an organization in some manner like the top three goals in a recent IDG SAS survey (operations, customer relationships, new products) or helping solve a social or health issue. Really the key is to develop a true analytical culture where we all understand and apprecaite the power within understanding data - something that only happens with science.

Peter Fretty
VijayR198
50%
50%
VijayR198,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2014 | 5:29:42 PM
Re: Great article, thank you for sharing this!
You have a 2-part question, both good ones. The first part is: are bright data scientists attracted to the government, and I believe the answer is Yes. If presidential elections and other big elections can be waged on big data platforms - as they have been for a few years now - and the outcomes are at least partially being decided based on the prowess of data scientists working on these platforms...I can see how elected officials will want to carry on some of this discipline (for socially useful purposes) even after they get elected, and data scientists therefore continue to find interesting work in the government space. The second part of your question, about the courage to tackle the touchy subject of privacy...I think that when governments and the EU etc use big data and big data technologies extensively to solve social problems, they will be able to have a more nuanced debate with the private sector...as opposed to the somewhat black and white debate that tends to occur today. 
kstaron
50%
50%
kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2014 | 3:01:55 PM
Making a difference for everyone
I like seeing how business are looking to solve problems beyond their own bottom line with the data they analyze, but are there any examples of not just of solving very first world problems like how bad we all drive but also of global issues such as global warming, making clean water more accessable or things like this?
shamika
50%
50%
shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2014 | 11:15:26 AM
Re: Great article, thank you for sharing this!
As mentioned in this article, good data will always help in better analysis.  It will also help in identifying trends and forecast for the future.
EsthervanLuit
50%
50%
EsthervanLuit,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/29/2014 | 5:01:47 PM
Great article, thank you for sharing this!
I really enjoyed reading this article as you mentioned some crucial pointers concerning Big Data. In the corporate environment I'm in many look at the opportunities to make money out of Big Data, but tend to overlook the amazing potential that Big Data has to do good in the world. The question that remains is whether the institutions most inclined to look for general societal gains such as governments and the EU can muster up the prowess to attract to bright data scientists who can translate the raw information into clear visuals, and the courage to tackle that touchy subject of privacy to make the world a better place.
shamika
50%
50%
shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 10:38:53 AM
Re: Data for Good
Also this is an important area. Big data will help in predictive analytics which will help in decision making.
shamika
50%
50%
shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 9:46:06 AM
Big data
This is an interesting article as well as an interesting topic. The most important fact is that do we really get the best out of big fata we have. In my opinion this is a big question mark.
Data for Good
100%
0%
Data for Good,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/25/2014 | 4:03:30 AM
Data for Good
Indeed, the number of data science projects for social good is growing every day. But where do you find information about these projects? We had this question in mind for quite some time and then launched dataforgood.co as a platform for finding and sharing data- and tech-driven projects for social good. Check us out and enter the discussion with project owners.
David F. Carr
100%
0%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2014 | 2:32:37 PM
Data science as a calling
I enjoyed this perspective on how data scientists can use their talents for something more than selling breakfast cereal.
Slideshows
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
Commentary
Graph-Based AI Enters the Enterprise Mainstream
James Kobielus, Tech Analyst, Consultant and Author,  2/16/2021
News
What Comes Next for AWS with Jassy to Become Amazon CEO
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  2/4/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Slideshows
Flash Poll