As a humanities guy with strong technical and quantitative interests, I’ve watched the explosion of data science* as a component of business, education, culture and career. It is a data age.
Found a first-person account of a Classics grad student turned data scientist; interesting take in particular that there are some commonalities that are not necessary top of mind.
“It was true that I needed to know statistics and how to write code to function effectively in these roles, but that knowledge was a given. It turned out that the differentiating points between a great data scientist and an average one were in the researcher’s ability to deal with that same uncertainty that had driven me from the humanities and into quantitative research in the first place. In other words, the scientific methodologies had all the same epistemological concerns and issues as the humanities — they just tackled those problems with different tools.
My experience has lead me to believe that graduate humanities work is in fact one of the most useful backgrounds for an industry data scientist. While there’s often a lot of focus on data scientists being experts in statistics or coding, these tools are simply a means to an end — they’re necessary but insufficient for doing great data science. If you’re a humanities graduate student and are interested in data, I’d feel confident in your ability to succeed in the field based on your less technical skills. Specifically, experience as a graduate researcher in humanities makes you an expert in:
- Going deep into topics and teaching yourself anything
- Stating research questions and supporting your answers with evidence
- Communicating the limitations and assumptions of your approach
In my mind, these broad research skills are more valuable (and rare) than knowledge of the specifics of any particular quantitative methodology.
*”Data scientist is just a sexed up word for statistician.’ Nate Silver