Academic Institutions Should Prepare Undergraduates for a Data-Driven Workplace, New Report Recommends

WASHINGTON – All U.S. undergraduate students should develop a basic understanding of data science to prepare them adequately for the workforce, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report examines the importance and benefits of postsecondary data science education and recommends offering a range of educational pathways, attracting students with varied backgrounds to the discipline, and embedding ethics and privacy into the curriculum.

“We live in a data-driven era in which people constantly generate data about their whereabouts, habits, and preferences. The evolution and spread of data science creates a demand for more, well-trained data science talent,” said Laura Haas, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report, and dean of the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “The undergraduate setting is a critical link in offering more data science exposure to students and expanding the supply of data science talent.”

Data science draws on skills and concepts from a wide array of disciplines that may not always overlap, making it a truly interdisciplinary field. Students in many fields need to learn about data collection, storage, integration, analysis, inference, communication, and ethics, the report says. The growing demand for data scientists across many sectors illustrates that data science instruction needs to be broader and include a wide range of students from varied programs. Both data science specialists and professionals with a range of data science knowledge and skills will be in demand.

Many skills that often are not fully developed in traditional computer science, statistics, and mathematics courses are crucial in the education of future data scientists. This collection of abilities — data acumen — combines concepts from these disciplines along with insight about communications and ethics plus key skills such as data modeling and visualization. Including this wide range of topics in a data science undergraduate curriculum will prepare future students for success in data-driven careers.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine | Read more >>

NAS Data Science Opportunities for Students NAS Video “Preparing Undergraduates for a Data-Driven Workplace”