Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Report - The Skills, Role and Career Structure of Data Scientists

JISC has published "The Skills, Role and Career Structure of Data Scientists: An Assessment of Current Practice and Future Needs" a report prepared by Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown where the "embryonic stage" of UK data science is analysed.

The report provides helpful definitions for several data related roles :
  • Data creators - those researchers producing data
  • Data scientists - working where research is carried out in a range of roles (including creation, database design, etc) and, in many cases, acting as translators between data creators and data managers
  • Data managers - with responsibilities for data storage, access and preservation
  • Data librarians - originating from the library community specializing in curation, preservation and archiving of data
After briefly touching on national approaches such as UKRDS or ANDS to set the scene, it then uses the DCC Curation Lifecycle Model to explain what data scientists and data managers do. The report also highlights the accidental nature of the career route for data scientists and how skills are mostly acquired on the job and in an ad-hoc manner. The main skills for these professionals are suggested to be: subject knowledge, technical skills and people skills. The study points out the lack of "sufficient numbers of appropriately skilled and experienced data scientists to meet the growing need" and that there is "no well defined path-way for for people who wish to pursue a career in data science".

In terms of the provision of training, Swan and Brown discuss formal postgraduate training including informatics courses and training for researchers from DCC or UKDA . Although continuing professional development seems to be the preferred option by people already in these roles. In addition to this, the report puts forward librarians as key players in the data science arena and their role to train researchers, exploit their data care role and cultivate new data librarians.

In my opinion, this is another very useful report that, amongst other things, calls for urgent action from research funders, universities and the library community to not only train future professionals in this field but to develop ways to recognise their work. I am very pleased to see the strong emphasis on libraries and data librarians and I am looking forward to see how the recommendations can be addressed.


allen said...

You have a nice informative blog of new topics. I much impressed with your article.

anna said...

Data science is now a topic of attention internationally. In the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK and Europe, developments are occurring. It is notable that the vision in all these places is that data science should be organized and developed on a national pattern rather than relying on piecemeal approaches to the issues.

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