By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

A new academic journal, “Big Data,” debuts next week, and its first issue features a recap of a spirited roundtable discussion conducted with a team from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool).

The article, “Educating the Next Generation of Data Scientists” [PDF], captures a wide range of perspectives about the subject voiced during a roundtable moderated by the journal’s editor-in-chief, Edd Dumbill. Participating on the discussion panel were iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy; Senior Associate Dean and Professor Jeffrey Stanton; information management and data science graduate student Kate Mueller; and Microsoft FUSE Lab’s Shelly Farnham.

The discussion began with panelists addressing the basic question of defining the field of data science. It turned to observations about patterns and trends in data education, including the iSchool at Syracuse University’s approach of educating for the full lifecycle of the data field.  Panelists also spoke about students who are entering the field and their various backgrounds and subject matter orientations. The high demand for data graduates, as well as career options and the needs of business and industry for data specialists also were detailed. In addition, panelists touched on the importance of higher education continuing its connection to and collaboration with industries who are hiring in the data field.  

Dean Liddy spoke of her observation that, “People come to data science either from the collection and curation side—and this may be someone who has worked in a science lab who has been responsible for keeping track of the data for a number of researchers—or the business side, which is, what are the business analytics? What is it we are trying to learn from it? What are the algorithms? What is the language we are going to use? It is a true life cycle, and what I find from the students is they come to our Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in data science to get in-depth knowledge on both of those sides of it.”

iSchool faculty member Jeffrey Stanton suggested that students are entering the iSchool’s data science program from much more diverse fields now. “What we have seen across the board is that as the industry interests in data science across all sectors—education and government and so forth—have grown, so has the interest level of students. Students are coming from all over now, rather than just from the sciences.”

Kate Mueller, a second year graduate student, said that as a “data geek,” she feels the field comes naturally to her. However, she suggested that “there are a lot of fellow students coming at it more with a library background or more of a business background. [Their perspective]  “is less emphasis on the tools themselves but more emphasis on trying to figure out what kind of insight you are trying to derive, and what kind of problems you are trying to solve. That is definitely a big shift just from the more strict science side of it.”

The journal, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is designed to “bring together the community to address current challenges and enforce effective efforts to organize, store, disseminate, protect, manipulate, and, most importantly, find the most effective strategies to make this incredible amount of information work to benefit society, industry, academia, and government,” the issue states. 

Big Data is available both in print and online, and is making its debut at the big data industry’s Strata conference next week in California. The journal publishes all original peer-reviewed research articles on an open-access basis.