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Defining "Data Scientist"

David Smith's picture

Forbes interviews Michael Rappa, Director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at NCSU, who has some useful perspectives on the definition of a "data scientist":

The term “data scientist” is a useful one, because it captures people’s imagination, Rappa says. “It’s good, because it really helps to underscore the changes that are going on in organizations, and in the economy in general around the centrality of data.”

In Rappa’s view, data science as it stands today is a blend of fields, including statistics, applied mathematics, and computer science. “It’s fair to say that statisticians would be closest to what we might call a data scientist in the traditional sense.” Statistics is a well-established profession. Indeed, the American Statistical Association, founded in 1839, is the second-oldest professional society in America. While the occupation of statistician is common in government and academic circles, in industry it tends to show up in a big way in a only few industries, such as pharmaceuticals.” Rappa says. The new data scientist we hear being talked about today—largely a West Coast phenomena right now, and predominantly in companies born digital—is certainly grounded in statistics, but goes beyond that to include knowledge of the computational dimension and advanced programming languages.

Rappa also suggests five key skills that a data scientist should possess: Technical Skills, Teamwork Skills, Communication Skills, Business Skills, and Tool Mastery. Sounds like a good and comprehensive list to me. See how Rappa defines those skills and read the complete interview at the link below.

Forbes: What Is a Data Scientist?: Michael Rappa, North Carolina State University