Data science doesn’t have to be difficult

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You could argue that it’s misguided for someone like me to say data science doesn't have to be difficult. After all, I’ve been in the industry for many years and should have a few tricks up my sleeve for dealing with data. But with the latest data visualisation technology – it even includes built-in analytics capabilities - you don’t have to be an expert to use it.

I saw this first-hand when one of our own interns used SAS Visual Analytics during his time with us earlier this year. In just a month, he delivered a full analysis of how UK universities are using data analytics for research and academic purposes.Tightrope

Each summer, we recruit eight to 10 students for a SAS summer internship that gives them a taste of being a data scientist. Over a six-week period, our interns attend a short training course and are assigned to different business departments. Each intern is tasked with solving a unique business challenge using SAS data analytics techniques.

Here’s what Kushal Shah shared with us during his internship:

“I’m in my second year at Loughborough University, studying International Relations. The course focuses on political science and we learn about history to help us better understand ways to manage international disputes.

When I applied for the SAS internship, I wasn’t sure I would get accepted because of the technical nature of the business. During my placement here, I quickly learned that data science means so much more than just working with numbers.

We were given a two-week training course on SAS Visual Analytics and Enterprise Guide, and learned different ways to organise, display and analyse data. My generation grew up with technology, and technology is a personal interest of mine (though I am by no means a programmer!), so it wasn’t difficult for me to grasp the basic concepts of these tools. The real training came when I started using it on the job.

SAS technology is available in universities around the world. My assignment was part of a global initiative to understand how universities are using data analytics for research and teaching.

In my first week, I was busy gathering data on a spreadsheet. A lot of it was based on research, but it also included input from my colleagues. Once the data was ready, the information was fed into SAS Visual Analytics for analysis.

Visualising the data made it a lot easier to understand the results, compared to looking through long lists of numbers and text. I was surprised by how easy it was to use the software and the depth of analysis it delivered. There was a huge amount of data, but the system was quick to pinpoint the exact information I was looking for.

My research indicated that 60 percent of UK universities currently use SAS for research and teaching purposes. I was also able to drill down into the specifics, such as which departments are most likely to use analytics.

Data analytics is not just about ones and zeros – it requires a high level of creativity to really unravel the meaning behind it. Thinking about my own career choices, the experience certainly gave me a new way of looking at data. On the surface, my degree has no direct correlation to data analytics, but in fact I can see many ways in which data science is important in the world of political diplomacy and international relations.

Using SAS technology, data science does not seem a difficult discipline. With a bit of patience and a curious mind, you'll find many interesting insights behind the numbers.”

The SAS Academic Programme for Students is designed specifically to help students obtain a globally recognised SAS qualification through university studies. If you’re interested in expanding your skills in data science, take a look at the courses available for the SAS UK Academic Program or explore worldwide SAS training opportunities (select your country in the dropdown list on the right side of the training page).

You can also read more about how to use data visualisation tools.

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About Author

Dr. Laurie Miles

Director, Global Cloud Analytics

Laurie Miles is a Global Director of Cloud Analytics, providing analytical advice and thought leadership globally across all industry verticals. He brings over 25 years of real-world analytics experience to the role. After joining SAS in 1996, Laurie was a consultant delivering analysis focussed projects to organisations from a variety of industry sectors including financial services, telecommunications, retail and utilities. He became SAS UK’s Head of Retail Banking Technology in 2000. Laurie was later appointed Head of Analytics for SAS UK & Ireland in 2008, working with some of the UK’s largest organisations providing strategic advice and forming industry best practice. In this role Laurie also pioneered the development of the SAS Analytics-as-a-Service solution, “SAS Results”. In January 2015 was appointed to lead this globally as part of the SAS Cloud Analytics proposition. Laurie holds a BSc in Econometrics, an MSc in Game Theory and a PhD in Number Theory.

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