The Democratization of Data Science

Jonathan Cornelissen at Harvard Business School: “Want to catch tax cheats? The government of Rwanda does — and it’s finding them by studying anomalies in revenue-collection data.

Want to understand how American culture is changing? So does a budding sociologist in Indiana. He’s using data science to find patterns in the massive amounts of text people use each day to express their worldviews — patterns that no individual reader would be able to recognize.

Intelligent people find new uses for data science every day. Still, despite the explosion of interest in the data collected by just about every sector of American business — from financial companies and health care firms to management consultancies and the government — many organizations continue to relegate data-science knowledge to a small number of employees.

That’s a mistake — and in the long run, it’s unsustainable. Think of it this way: Very few companies expect only professional writers to know how to write. So why ask onlyprofessional data scientists to understand and analyze data, at least at a basic level?

Relegating all data knowledge to a handful of people within a company is problematic on many levels. Data scientists find it frustrating because it’s hard for them to communicate their findings to colleagues who lack basic data literacy. Business stakeholders are unhappy because data requests take too long to fulfill and often fail to answer the original questions. In some cases, that’s because the questioner failed to explain the question properly to the data scientist.

Why would non–data scientists need to learn data science? That’s like asking why non-accountants should be expected to stay within budget.

These days every industry is drenched in data, and the organizations that succeed are those that most quickly make sense of their data in order to adapt to what’s coming. The best way to enable fast discovery and deeper insights is to disperse data science expertise across an organization.

Companies that want to compete in the age of data need to do three things: share data tools, spread data skills, and spread data responsibility…(More)”.