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A Data Science Culture

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I was quite moved by the news of The National Data Science Bowl, co-sponsored by Booz-Allen-Hamilton, the premier consulting firm for the US Defense & Security, and Government industries; and Kaggle -the leading open collaboration network for data scientists worldwide.

In 3 months, the best person to write an algorithm for classifying images of plankton, will get $100K.

So it’s not only President Obama being the first president to code, there’s a avalanche of efforts in the U.S. to empower people with computer science skills, democratize access to programming education. Kaggle, and the Bowl, are reflections of that in the data science community.

(For those unfamiliar, Kaggle is a crowdsourcing platform where people worldwide compete in solving data science problems from a plethora of domains by developing new algorithms and techniques. The winners may get money, land an interview with Facebook, or just be in it for the swag. Full disclosure: this author, is one of the more enthusiastic participants)

So this is an open call for ideas as much as a blog post. What can be done in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and especially Turkey to promote a positive, encouraging culture for developing data scientists -what many have called the profession of the future?

After popularizing it, what can be done to democratize the tools & trade, and save “data science” from being an arcane art practiced in top-tier specialized consulting shops and computer science departments? How do we tell the story that Machine Learning is not about HAL, Kubrick’s evil red LED; and data mining is not writing cleverer queries against your SQL database?

Do we attack computer scientists and statisticians as a target group, or is there much more value to be gained by equipping domain experts with some tricks of the trade?

Lastly, among all of these questions, which do we answer first?

Ideas to follow.

Caner Türkmen

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