Making data mining a profession
Tuesday evening Nesta’s Conference room was full to the brim with ‘deep data experts’ attending the First Open Meeting of the Society of Data Miners that we were hosting (in case you didn’t know, data miners use algorithms to discover useful patterns in data.)
The session started with a presentation by Tom Khabaza, Founding Chairman of the Society, who talked about its goals:
- To increase the benefits of data mining to society;
- To increase knowledge and awareness of the nature and benefits of data mining;
- To advance the profession of data mining;
- To form a community of and for data miners.
This was followed by a series of entertaining and educational talks.
- Analytics expert Andy Pryke spoke about the use of the R computing environment for data analysis and visualisation,
- Fran Bennett from Mastodon C discussed some of the methods and findings of the recent project with Nesta where they used open government data to look at the adoption of new drugs by doctors.
- Chris Hemingway, Head of Analytics at the Fraud, Error and Debt Programme at the Cabinet Office made a cautious case for the adoption of the 'Chief Analytics Officer' role in organisations, and provided an interesting framework to think about how data and analysis fit in the complicated puzzle of decision-making within organisations.
(The presentations will be published here very soon)
After these presentations, there was a discussion about the various roles that a professional society for data miners might perform. These included certification, standards, education, conferences, ethics and communication with the greater public. We heard many different views on these issues in the short time available, and there was scope for some interesting arguments about
- the risk that certification could slow innovation in the field
- the importance of making managers more aware of the value of analytics
- how people are rebranding themselves to benefit from the popularity of ‘big data’
As observers we sensed a real enthusiasm for the development of this occupation into a profession. Data mining is one of the skills we are studying in our ‘Skills for the Data Driven Economy’ project, so the meeting was also very useful for us as fieldwork!
Anyone interested should visit http://www.socdm.org/.