Hacking life: Data science students urged to solve common problems

A group of 90 ‘elite’ computing students have been tasked with coming up with ways to solve a series of everyday problems using data science techniques.

The Masters students – who are being funded by The Data Lab, one of Scotland’s eight innovation centres – will be asked to come up with novel solutions to common issues in life and business.

The ‘Data Challenge’ is part of a new year-long MSc programme being delivered at seven universities across Scotland and at the end the top performing students will be awarded a prize.

As well as carrying out a paid industrial placement, optional additional training and liasion with recruiting Scottish organisations, the post-grads will be charged with ‘using datasets unique to Scotland to develop new insights, ideas, products, services or processes that will deliver social or economic benefit.’

Specifically, the tasks will involve:

  • Identifying problems within business and troubleshooting to deliver a suitable solution
  • Devising a product or insight to support a start-up business
  • Analysing data and relevant insights to create a compelling story that is in the public interest in Scotland

“We have developed the Data Lab MSc specifically to build a high-quality pool of ‘data talent’ in Scotland that is equipped with the skills, experience, networks, creativity and confidence to succeed in employment, as entrepreneurs and as researchers,” said Joshua Ryan-Saha, Skills Manager at The Data Lab.

He added: “We are deliberately doing things differently. Yes, each of the 90 Data Lab MSc students will be offered an industrial placement. But we’re going a step further. We have incorporated a challenge-driven learning initiative on top of each institution’s specialist data course that brings together the students from all seven different universities in mixed teams for three intensive weekend workshops. These sessions pit these promising elite data specialists against each other – asking them to mine and analyse existing open data sets to address a key challenge facing Scotland.  They will seek insights and ideas to drive direct benefits to Scotland.”

The Data Lab’s MSc 2016/17 intake is more than doubling to 90 places funded across seven Scottish universities – up from the 40 places funded across three universities previously. Four of the courses selected for The Data Lab MSc are brand-new courses for the 2016/17 academic year in the South-West of Scotland.

The MSc programme is core to the Data Lab’s aim to unlock the estimated £17bn value of data to Scotland and generate 248 high-value jobs and a pipeline of data science talent to stem the skills gap.