Sprinting ahead: the future of data science

As we move into a digital economy an increasingly complex range of data science skills will be required in all sectors of society and the workforce. But how do we work out what these skills are and how do we develop them effectively?

Code Sprint

At Wallscope we’re always on the lookout for new talent, so we decided to run a two-day Code Sprint with a small group of students, using our API to explore creative visualisations of data. We then fed this into a larger-scale Data Science Symposium to look at the education landscape more broadly, from the perspective of employers, educators and policy makers. This was delivered in partnership with Steve Brewer of the EU-funded EDISON project, which champions professional roles in data science.

For the Code Sprint we invited four students from the data visualisation course at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam to Edinburgh, as well as local students from Edinburgh University Design Informatics Department, Edinburgh Napier and Heriot-Watt. Working with publicly available data from the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland, their challenge was to come up with new and creative suggestions for the visualisation of this data – such as dashboards, mindmaps, charts… or something else entirely! Fuelled by pizza, coffee and Irn Bru, the students developed some practical toolsets to help unlock the value of data and quickly turn it into realisable knowledge and information.

Find out more about the students and their experience here.

Data Science Symposium

The following week the Symposium focused on identifying the skills needed for the future, and how we can encourage collaborative work to ensure the most appropriate learning and development is in place. We examined this challenge from the perspective of SMEs and larger businesses, education, design thinking, policy makers, NGOs and also from a national as well as international perspective. 

A number of recommendations and conclusions were gathered from the day, including: 

  • the need for data science to be better understood across all levels and sectors
  • the need for practitioners to have strong communications skills and an agile approach in addition to mathematical, statistical and computing and critical thinking skills
  • the need to act quickly to seize the ever-evolving opportunities in this field
  • the high value of innovation centres like The Data Lab
  • the need for university and training courses to learn from what has gone before
  • the fact that Edinburgh should take advantage of its position as a compact, forward thinking capital to establish itself as a world leader in this field. 

Looking ahead we will continue to develop links between Edinburgh and Amsterdam, sharing best practice and development opportunities, and are working closely with The Data Lab on research and development projects.

Code Sprint students