The Evolution of Data Science: Success, Challenges and Opportunities for Statistics and Biostatistics

What are some of the challenges for statistics and biostatistics in the era of Data Science?  A recent NSF-Sponsored Workshop for Chairs of Departments of Biostatistics and Statistics took the opportunity to delve into this question, and summarized the findings in a recently published white paper.  

Workshop speakers included NIH and NSF officials, data science researchers and educators, leaders from business sectors, and leaders from the statistical community who discussed mentoring and junior faculty issues.

The discussion focused on four topics: (i) Workforce Demand and Needs; ii) Research Funding; (iii) Education and Research in the Data Science Era; and (iv) the Support and Mentoring of Junior Faculty. The takeaways, which emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of data science, were directed at a variety of audiences, from department chairs, to students and junior faculty, to the statistics community at large.   In addition to reaffirming the essential role of statistics, mathematics, and computer science in the theoretical foundations and practical applications of data science, panelists encouraged department chairs to continue to collaborate and form substantive partnerships – across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry, in co-curricular opportunities for the development of communication and non-technical skills and, and in the curation and sharing of data and research methodologies.     Other findings highlighted the need to better incorporate statisticians and biostatisticians in funding review panels to ensure the quality of funded science and increase the recognition of statistical contributions.  Panelists also noted the changes in the ways in which scientific accomplishments are valued and disseminated, and highlighted the need for improved training for non-statisticians, increased support and career-long mentorship for junior faculty, and continued opportunities to meet and share insights as the field of data science evolves.

Visit the ASA website for the full white paper and more information on the workshop including speakers, slides and videos.