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The role of a data scientist in a data driven future

Consumer Marketing Data General

DataWe’ve likely all heard the metaphor ‘data is the new oil’ or have been dazzled by statistics on how many trillion gigabytes of online data exist.  Such quotes take me back to a distant time and place; GCSE Information Technology and the maxims ‘data is not information’ (I’d add that information is not always useful, valuable or robust!) and ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

It is the processing of oil to produce petrol, plastics etc. which generates value.  Data science teams distil data to realise value; from data collection, extraction and wrangling, through the application of statistical and machine learning, to visualisation, interpretation and the communication of findings.

Though I blush, data science has been described as the sexiest 21st Century job, because it provides the means to wield data’s power; a means to tease out previously unimagined correlations and interactions between disparate data-sets, to make predictions and hint at causation.

Data scientists can help extract value from a world awash with data

In our hyper-connected, digital world, pretty much anything can be digitised.  Indeed the datafication possibilities appear boundless and incredibly exciting (e.g. wearables, Internet of Things, mind uploading[i]– though perhaps I’ll give this one a miss!).  Data unlike oil it seems, is a near infinite resource.

This data explosion coupled with rapid technological developments in distributed computing and Machine Learning, has delivered an age where decisions can be based on data driven science in real or near real time.

I’m certainly finding it an exciting time to be involved in data science, playing a small part in turning heaps of raw data into value for Callcredit’s clients.

By way of a simple example, we recently brought together a number of previously separate data-sets to produce a property level classification of tenure.  This required a whole bunch of data wrangling, the creation of new features and Machine Learning to infill those statuses where an out-dated tenure history existed.  We then told our story through eye-catching visualisations.

An expanding role – helping to shape the future of your business

To help our organisations in this data driven world, alongside our technical skills and creative insights, I believe data scientists should be looking to:

Data mindsetNurture a data mind-set; help your business appreciate the option value[ii] of data even where it is not yet realised/fully understood.  From customer transactions to ‘meta’ and ‘exhaust’ data, be creative, explore the raw material before value judgements are made.


Help shape a data science culture to inform decision making; not only do businesses need a data mind-set but they also need to appreciate how data’s value is realised:

“Now is the time to begin thinking of data science as a profession not a job, as a corporate culture not a corporate agenda, as a strategy not a stratagem, as a core competency not a course, and as a way of doing things not a thing to do.” Dr. Kirk Bornes[iii]

Support the personal data economy; much of the data generated relates to individuals and their lives.  As data scientists we should be trusted custodians, constantly challenging ourselves to find the value exchange whereby consumers control access to their data and benefit when they share.  At Callcredit for example, some of our largest investments concern educating consumers about their data and empowering them to protect themselves, through our direct to consumer platform – Noddle.

Whether it is producing world class jet engines, consumer centric banking services or tailored healthcare, in our rapidly accelerating digital age, those who excel in harvesting and extracting value from data stand the greatest chance of winning.  Success I believe demands both the right culture and excellent data science but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?!

Author: Jonathan Gill, Data Science Manager

[i] Thinking Machines:  The inside story of Artificial Intelligence and our race to build the future.  Luke Dormehl, 2016.  Chapter 7, “In the Future There Will Be Mindclones”

[ii] Big Data:  A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think.  Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, 2013.  Page 102

[iii] Data Science Declaration.  Dr. Kirk Borne, 2015.


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