Susan Athey on Big Data

June 30, 2013

The Minneapolis Fed has published a series of interviews with economists that I find uniformly fascinating. That’s often the kiss of death, but I hope not in this case. Their latest is an interview with Susan Athey, an accomplished theorist with applied interests that extend to working with Microsoft. The whole interview is great, but I thought I’d pass on these comments about Big Data and Data Science:  

In the business world, this is where there’s an enormous scarcity of talent. But among data scientists, the ones who can define a question and introduce a new way of looking at the data — those data scientists are rock stars. They’re pursued by every company and they move up the hierarchy very quickly. And there are never enough of them.

We’re not teaching courses that reflect this. Econometrics, at the undergraduate level, is not appreciated as an expertise that’s extremely important for future employment.

I would add that this goes well beyond econometrics; I’d include math, computer science, and statistics. And one of Susan’s points is that economics is useful in providing a framework for thinking about data. NYU is a particularly good place to pick up all of these skills. If you have questions about what’s involved, send me an email and I’ll link you up with the right people.

Update: cool piece on data journalism that sells the same idea more imaginatively.

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