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Data Science

National Academies Reports Examine U.S. Data Science Education

Two new reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine tackle data science for educators. One report summarizes the findings of a workshop on training students to "extract value from big data." The other is intended to help institutions envision data science from an undergraduate perspective.

The impetus behind the production of the first report, "Training Students to Extract Value from Big Data," was recognition in the field that the country's ability to make use of data depends on a trained workforce ready to tackle the job. Students pursuing an education in this segment need education in several areas, including statistical analysis, machine learning and computational infrastructure, as well as cross-disciplinary skills, such as how to model problems while staying attuned to system capacity.

In 2014 a workshop was convened by the National Research Council's Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics to explore how best to train students to use big data. Participants came from higher ed as well as industry (Microsoft, LinkedIn and Google). The event was held in a time when myriad graduate programs were launching, each with its "own notions" of big data, data analytics and data science and what students needed to know to be considered proficient in data-intensive work. The report offers perspectives about those elements and their integration into courses and curricula by summarizing what took place at the workshop.

The second report, "Envisioning the Data Science Discipline: The Undergraduate Perspective: Interim Report," sets out a vision for data science as a discipline at the undergraduate level by examining the "core underlying principles, intellectual content, and pedagogical issues specific to data science." It also poses questions that may shape the way data science education evolves in the future, such as "How can students gain access to real-world data sets?" and "How can ethical considerations be best incorporated through the data science curriculum?"

It's actually an interim report to generate "community feedback," based on the findings from two events, a public webinar held in April 2017 and a workshop that took place the following month. A final version is scheduled to be published shortly and is expected to examine applications of and careers in data science and address issues of interest to middle and high school educators as well as community colleges.

Both reports are available on the National Academies Press website:

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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