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Global data crunch looms: not enough people to handle it

24 Aug 2018 9:00 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

Big data is exploding so rapidly around the world, there are not enough skilled operators to handle and interpret it.

The demand for expert data professionals is outstripping supply many times over, an international group of scholars and educators warned today.

Details of a global project to beef up the teaching of data studies in high schools in countries around the world and to train school teachers in data science, as a science of central importance to the human future have been released by the group.

“The last decade has seen spectacular growth in data collection and usage in most areas of human endeavour – from government to business, to health, science and the environment,” a spokesman for the group, Nick Fisher, said.

“The scale and complexity of the data now being amassed are far beyond the ability of single computers or individuals to manage. We need teams of data science experts working together in real time, around the world. That is why we have launching an urgent project aimed at meeting the global shortfall in trained data science professionals.

“At the same time there is an urgent need for ordinary people to be able to understand and use the data now available to them – whether it is about their health, their financial situation, in their job or education.”

“The project is a collaborative activity involving leading computer scientists, statistical scientists, curriculum experts and teachers from Australia, Canada, England, Germany Holland, New Zealand and the USA and supported by several national and international societies, groups and companies. 

The aim of the International Data Science in Schools Project (IDSSP) is to transform the way data science is taught the last two years of secondary school.  Its objectives are:

  1. To ensure that school children develop a sufficient understanding and appreciation of how data can be acquired and used to make decisions so that they can make informed judgments in their daily lives, as children and then as adults
  2. To inspire mathematically able school students to pursue tertiary studies in data science and its related fields, with a view to a career.

“In both cases, we want to teach people how to learn from data,” Dr Fisher said.

Two curriculum frameworks are being created to support development of a pre-calculus course in data science that is rigorous, engaging and accessible to all students, and a joy to teach.  

  • Framework 1 (Data Science for students).  This framework is designed as the basis for developing a course with a total of some 240 hours of instruction.
  • Framework 2 (Data Science for teachers).  As a parallel development, this framework is designed as the basis for guiding the development of teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds (mathematics, computer science, science, economics, …) to teach a data science course well.      

Dr Fisher said that the draft frameworks will be published for widespread public consultation in early 2019 before completion by August.

“We envisage the material will be used not just in schools, but also as a valuable source of information for data science courses in community colleges and universities and for private study.”

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