Data science plays a pivotal role today, as it revolutionises industries and transforms decision-making. With the proliferation of digital technologies, organisations now generate massive amounts of data. Data science enables the extraction, analysis, and interpretation of this data to uncover valuable insights and drive informed strategies. It empowers businesses to optimise operations, enhance customer experiences and identify emerging trends. Data-driven approaches also fuel scientific research, healthcare advancements, and social impact initiatives. By leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Data Science empowers predictive modeling, fraud detection, personalised recommendations, and so on.
As the world becomes increasingly data-driven, the need for professionals (data scientists) who can extract meaningful insights from vast amounts of information has become apparent. As more institutions adopt dedicated Data Science programmes, students are being equipped with the skills to navigate complex data landscapes, solve intricate problems and make informed decisions. This has led to the convergence of Computer Science, Statistics, Mathematics, and domain expertise, culminating in the birth of Data Science as a distinct discipline.
Before the emergence of Data Science as a distinct field, education in this domain was fragmented and lacked a unified approach. The curriculum focused heavily on technical skills, such as programming, algorithms, and mathematical modeling, while neglecting the broader context. Interdisciplinary collaboration was seldom encouraged, limiting students’ exposure to diverse perspectives and real-world applications. Additionally, ethical considerations surrounding data privacy, bias, and social implications were often overlooked. This hindered the potential of data science, preventing its integration with various domains and failing to address the complex challenges of a data-driven world.
The interdisciplinary nature of Data Science helps make more informed and robust decisions, considering various perspectives. For example, in estimating the effect of a medicine in treating a disease, a data scientist integrates demographic data and lifestyle data as well as the severity of the disease, genetic/hereditary records, and social behaviour/activities.
To meet the growing demands and complexities of data-driven challenges, a paradigm shift is underway in education. Interdisciplinary education has broken barriers and is reshaping the future of Data Science. Collaborative research initiatives between faculties are on the rise, with interdisciplinary teams tackling real-world challenges. These endeavours not only advance knowledge but also produce tangible outcomes that benefit society, as diverse perspectives converge to address multifaceted problems. Contemporary Data Science curriculum emphasises hands-on experience, practical projects, and exposure to diverse domains, fostering collaboration among students from different disciplines.
In the complex world of finance, data scientists with expertise in Finance, Mathematics, and Machine Learning, can revolutionise investment strategies. By analysing market data, economic indicators, and investor sentiment, they can develop robust models that generate superior returns, mitigate risks and disrupt traditional investment practices. Several consulting and audit companies today have access to a large volume of customers’ internal data and industry-related external data. The role of these companies is now enhanced, as they are expected to provide effective strategies and plans to their customers using trends and patterns developed through the use of data science. A consultant of such companies, therefore, has to be trained in Data Science and the relevant customer domain, to effectively provide the service that the customer requires.
In a world grappling with climate change, a data scientist with expertise in Environmental Science and Data Analytics can develop innovative models that analyse weather patterns, carbon emissions, and ecological data to predict and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events, fostering resilience and sustainability.
One of the challenges faced in the industry today is the need for domain-specific solutions. With the interdisciplinary nature of data science, this can be achieved by understanding the business/domain better and incorporating the business needs into the data science tools and systems.
Smitha Rao isProfessor and Programme Chair, School of Computational and Data Science; R P Suresh isProfessor of Practice, School of Computational and Data Sciences; and Umesh S. Mahtani isProgramme Chair, Bachelor of Management Studies and Professor, School of Business Studies, and Director, Start-up Management Programme at Vidyashilp University.