Cool Career: Data Scientist

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Published on October 1st, 2012  |  Discuss This Article  

Move over Rolling Stone, we will all be reading Rolling Data soon. The Harvard Business Review just declared, “Data Scientists: the Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”

While they didn’t actually single out conservation scientists, save an oblique reference that business leaders might check out systems biology graduate programs as they search high and low for the next talent, the signs are all there. The experience of “coax[ing] treasure out of messy, unstructured data” is exactly the process of trying to evaluate the impact of conservation work on whole systems.

That critical talent of communicating science and data to managers, as well as a love of being “on the bridge” or in the middle of where the conservation rubber hits the data-analytic road, describes many Nature Conservancy scientists in a nutshell. I think that the authors’ treatment of the bumps in the road for data scientists is fair, too. Interdisciplinary can also meet lack of a clear support community. Too much time focused on management issues can dull the edge of even the most itinerant R enthusiast.

But, all in all, it is good news for conservation scientists that the business world is giving a call for more sophisticated analyses that more closely reflect how the world (presumably, people and nature) works.

(Image: Jake Porway, data scientist extraordinaire and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, speaking at TEDx in Montreal. Source: Flickr user Eva Blue via a Creative Commons license.)

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