Take the A2 Quick Poll: Citizen Data Scientists


The citizen data scientist concept is relatively new in the analytics space, but I get the sense that it's one of those "love it or hate it" ideas that will bring the discussion to a boiling point. It's not there yet, but it's at least simmering.

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

As we have seen over the past few years, there's still no solid agreement on the role of the data scientist in an organization, and which skills are most critical. The result is that the job descriptions for a data scientists require some serious online scrolling through requirements for advanced technical degrees, certifications, industry knowledge, creativity, communication skills, and management experience.

It sometimes seems that those job descriptions were assembled by a committee representing a half dozen departments, from HR to marketing and the C-suite. I'm sure you have heard that the camel is a horse designed by a committee. No wonder it's so hard to find candidates who hit all the criteria.

I've talked to probably a dozen analytics professionals about the citizen data scientist concept in recent months. Some embrace it. Others want to squash it like a bug. That type of dichotomy begs for some additional research. So, I encourage you to have your say in our new Quick Poll, Those Citizen Data Scientists.

Like so many other new tech-related concepts, one challenge regarding "citizen data scientist" is in defining the term itself.

I've heard executives talk about recruiting experienced business managers for mid-career shifts into data science roles, and sending those candidates off for a year or more of intensive data management/math/statistics education. Others give business unit leaders a crash course in the basics of analytics and pair them with experienced technical pros, so that together they meet the job criteria as some two-headed data scientist.

Then there is the idea that a citizen data scientist merely is a business pro who is given more advanced query tools built out by an experienced data scientist, but the business pro is isolated from the actual database.

Those speaking in opposition to citizen data science argue that you have to possess core data management, SQL, and data modeling talents if you are going to touch live data.

While I find the citizen data scientist role intriguing and I understand the need to fill data science roles rather than let them sit idle, there are legitimate concerns about how someone with only a few months of technical training could mess up corporate data or misinterpret statistics.

So, this is an issue where I will play the role of the smart politician and abstain, at least until the votes are in and I can see which way the wind is blowing. However, I encourage you to have your say with your votes and with your comments.

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: Citizen data scientist citizens
  • 9/30/2016 11:54:41 PM
NO RATINGS

That's idea. I've seen MOOCs that might help, I think at Coursera or edX.

Re: Citizen data scientist citizens
  • 9/21/2016 9:46:10 AM
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It would surely be a good movement forward to encourage those "private citizens" to volunteer or otherwise join up with community organizations in data analysis. Maybe there is a movement somewhere for crash courses for those with expertise in other areas to expand their knowlege to data in order to help out causes?

Re: Citizen data scientist citizens
  • 9/20/2016 6:40:47 PM
NO RATINGS

@Lyndon. Maybe the "citizen data scientist" title will apply to all of the above in terms of the holder's technical and data expertise. Then again, some BI, analytics, database, and even marketing people seem to have adopted the "data scientist" title with a simple tweak on their resume. I'm reminded of an anecdote from an analytics exec earlier this year. His company did a skills survey as they searched for analytics talent. This mid-sized company discovered that they had a couple hundred more "data scientists" than they knew about. I suspect this could be a result of all the talk about how much of a salary premium a data scientist can command.

Citizen data scientist citizens
  • 9/20/2016 5:31:56 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Jim writes in his blog article


The citizen data scientist concept is relatively new in the analytics space, but I get the sense that it's one of those "love it or hate it" ideas that will bring the discussion to a boiling point. ...

As we have seen over the past few years, there's still no solid agreement on the role of the data scientist in an organization, and which skills are most critical. ...

I've talked to probably a dozen analytics professionals about the citizen data scientist concept in recent months. Some embrace it. Others want to squash it like a bug. ...

Like so many other new tech-related concepts, one challenge regarding "citizen data scientist" is in defining the term itself.

...

Then there is the idea that a citizen data scientist merely is a business pro who is given more advanced query tools built out by an experienced data scientist, but the business pro is isolated from the actual database.


 

In a 2015 Information Week article, Lisa Morgan wrote:


A recent Gartner report defines a citizen data scientist as "a person who creates or generates models that leverage predictive or prescriptive analytics but whose primary job function is outside of the field of statistics and analytics."


 

This is not a bad definition, but the way it's being applied seems to ignore a large growing category of "citizen data scientists" whose role in that respect is more involved with community service rather than with a business enterprise or public agency. These are savvy professionals with backgrounds in math, social sciences, public policy, IT, etc. and skills in predictive analytics, data analysis, and similar data analytics-related applications who use those skills for collaborative community projects.

We experienced that here in Austin starting three years ago with respect to a local controversy over an official urban rail proposal. How analytics-savvy community activists used their skills in this context was described in my own 2014 A2 article: Analytics Fuel Transit Duel in Austin.

I think the analytics community might be wise to pay more attention to this growing category of private-citizen-type "citizen data scientists".

 

Re: Digital world
  • 9/20/2016 2:19:32 PM
NO RATINGS

@Maryam. Even if the business person isn't called a data scientist, pairing them with an actual data scientist or analytics pro makes sense to me. Maybe it's a dotted line connection where each relies on the other's experience for sanity checks and to generate ideas.

Digital world
  • 9/20/2016 12:38:46 PM
NO RATINGS

Jim I just voted and I think this is a great idea. In a digital work you can't separate data analytics from business they are the business. They are telling you every day about what is happening in your market and how you should focus your efforts. Training those with an interest in analytics is a great career path and a way to fill the gap with a known employee that has business knowledge.

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