What is Data Science

Data science, also known as data-driven science, is an interdisciplinary field of scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms, either structured or unstructured, similar to data mining.

Data science is a “concept to unify statistics, data analysis, machine learning and their related methods” in order to “understand and analyze actual phenomena” with data. It employs techniques and theories drawn from many fields within the broad areas of mathematics, statistics, information science, and computer science, in particular from the sub-domains of machine learning, classification, cluster analysis, uncertainty quantification, computational science, data mining, databases, and visualization.

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As you can see from the above image, a Data Analyst usually explains what is going on by processing history of the data. On the other hand, Data Scientist not only does the exploratory analysis to discover insights from it, but also uses various advanced machine learning algorithms to identify the occurrence of a particular event in the future. A Data Scientist will look at the data from many angles, sometimes angles not known earlier.

So, Data Science is primarily used to make decisions and predictions making use of predictive causal analytics, prescriptive analytics (predictive plus decision science) and machine learning.

  • Predictive causal analytics – If you want a model which can predict the possibilities of a particular event in the future, you need to apply predictive causal analytics. Say, if you are providing money on credit, then the probability of customers making future credit payments on time is a matter of concern for you. Here, you can build a model which can perform predictive analytics on the payment history of the customer to predict if the future payments will be on time or not.
  • Prescriptive analytics: If you want a model which has the intelligence of taking its own decisions and the ability to modify it with dynamic parameters, you certainly need prescriptive analytics for it. This relatively new field is all about providing advice. In other terms, it not only predicts but suggests a range of prescribed actions and associated outcomes.
    The best example for this is Google’s self-driving car which I had discussed earlier too. The data gathered by vehicles can be used to train self-driving cars. You can run algorithms on this data to bring intelligence to it. This will enable your car to take decisions like when to turn, which path to take, when to slow down or speed up.
  • Machine learning for making predictions — If you have transactional data of a finance company and need to build a model to determine the future trend, then machine learning algorithms are the best bet. This falls under the paradigm of supervised learning. It is called supervised because you already have the data based on which you can train your machines. For example, a fraud detection model can be trained using a historical record of fraudulent purchases.
  • Machine learning for pattern discovery — If you don’t have the parameters based on which you can make predictions, then you need to find out the hidden patterns within the dataset to be able to make meaningful predictions. This is nothing but the unsupervised model as you don’t have any predefined labels for grouping. The most common algorithm used for pattern discovery is Clustering.

Why We Need Data Science

  • How about if you could understand the precise requirements of your customers from the existing data like the customer’s past browsing history, purchase history, age and income. No doubt you had all this data earlier too, but now with the vast amount and variety of data, you can train models more effectively and recommend the product to your customers with more precision. Wouldn’t it be amazing as it will bring more business to your organization?
  • Let’s take a different scenario to understand the role of Data Science in decision making. How about if your car had the intelligence to drive you home? The self-driving cars collect live data from sensors, including radars, cameras and lasers to create a map of its surroundings. Based on this data, it takes decisions like when to speed up, when to speed down, when to overtake, where to take a turn – making use of advanced machine learning algorithms.
  • Let’s see how Data Science can be used in predictive analytics. Let’s take weather forecasting as an example. Data from ships, aircraft’s, radars, satellites can be collected and analyzed to build models. These models will not only forecast the weather but also help in predicting the occurrence of any natural calamities. It will help you to take appropriate measures beforehand and save many precious lives.

Let’s have a look at the below infographic to see all the domains where Data Science is creating its impression.

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