A data analyst collects, processes and performs statistical analyses on a large dataset, so to discover how data can be used to answer questions and solve problems. Now data analytical skills are needed increasingly across many other disciplines. To meet this need, Essex is offering data science training to a much wider range of students. A pioneering project offering all students free data science training is being launched by the University of Essex at the end of next month (September). The need for expertise in data analysis used to be a focus just for students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) subjects.
In what is thought to be the UK first, every Essex student will be offered the new Data Science for All course. A Data Science Boot Camp is also being launched for Masters Students in the social sciences and humanities, both will have academic support. The ten-day Data Science for All online course is open to all Essex undergraduates who do not have a computer science background but want to improve their skills in data science and data analytics and help themselves to be more employable when they graduate. The ten-day Data Science Boot Camp is to offer added support for incoming Masters students in the social sciences and humanities, including students in Essex’s new MSc in Social Data Science, who do not have a background in computer science.
“We need students who have knowledge in a wide range of social science and humanities topics, but who can also work with data analytics to understand patterns and trends,” explained Professor Natasha Lindstaedt, Essex’s Deputy Dean of Education for Social Sciences. “There is a real disconnect between the people who can communicate well and the people that are good at data science and these two courses will bridge that gap.”
“Essex has a really diverse student body and has some of the best academics in data science in Europe,” added Professor Lindstaedt. “We would like to be known as the number one institution in Europe for data science training, particularly for non-computer scientists, and to reach students from around the world.” Explaining how data analytics can complement social science expertise, Professor Lindstaedt added: “Data science can be used to formulate development policies such as urban planning and disease monitoring, advocate social change, serve as an information intermediary, promote greater transparency and accountability and assist with a government’s delivery of services.”
Dr. Alejandro Quiroz Flores, Chief Scientific Adviser to Essex County Council, added: “National and local governments, international organizations, NGOs, and media outlets are calling for increased and ethical data sharing and the provision of open data. Having the types of skills to discover trends and patterns in structured and unstructured data in order to help inform actions will be key to improving student employability.”
As part of this goal, Essex is also offering data science conversion courses designed to help those who have previously studied the humanities or social sciences, or who have some science and data experience through degrees in life sciences or business. The boot camp is part of the University’s plan to create a Data Science and Global South Centre which will merge topics that are often neglected in data science. The Centre will bring the humanities, social sciences and computer science closer together, offering collaborations, education and training – which would extend to include Essex’s educational partners in the Global South. The University is home to the Institute for Analytics and Data Science – a centre for excellence that connects scholars, businesses, institutions and authorities to work on their data needs. The Essex data analytics community includes Professor Maria Fasli, Executive Dean for the Faculty of Science and Health, who is UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science.
Essex is committed to putting people at the heart of data science and is part of the unique Essex Centre for Data Analytics partnership with Essex County Council and Essex Police – a programme designed to share data ethically and combine it with the experience of people and communities across Essex, to create powerful insight and inform policy decisions.