This short document outlines the main mission of the European Association for Data Science (EuADS), founded
in Luxembourg on the 27th of June, 2014. Its two parts address the following questions:
- What is data science, and how can it be a force for good?
- What can an association such as EuADS contribute, what is its mission and its European dimension?
What is data science, and how can it be a force for good?
Data and knowledge are the two pillars on which our ability to understand and interact with the world around us rests.
Data can broadly be described as factual information about events, situations, circumstances, developments and changes in the world around us. Due to its immaterial nature, data is easily stored, linked and shared over large distances, which gives it tremendous potential to influence the material world in a myriad of ways.
While data is a vehicle for describing the world around us, knowledge is the carrier of understanding it. Domain knowledge is indispensable for understanding the meaning of data and for processing and exploiting it in a productive way. Conversely, the competent handling of data, from its collection and preparation, via data storage, sharing and linking, through to analytics and visualisation, maximises the knowledge and understanding that can be derived from it.
How the potential of data is realised largely depends on the individuals possessing and using that data: their understanding of its scope and limits, their ability to handle it properly and to derive correct conclusions from it. As data is becoming more and more ubiquitous, so are these challenges and the need to disseminate data-related skills and knowledge into the wider community.
Data science is evolving as a new discipline from a family of intellectual disciplines exploiting the interplay of data and knowledge, building on rich data and domain knowledge to produce value in a variety of forms.
The constituent disciplines range from methodological subject areas (computer science, mathematical modelling, statistics, machine learning, data mining, optimisation) to data-driven applications in other domains (psychology, social science, economics, history, among many others).
Methodological challenges include how to deal with and integrate different types of data (tabular, temporal, spatial, text, images, speech, networks, etc.) and different kinds of knowledge (logical, probabilistic, causal, procedural, etc.). Application challenges include how to translate relevant questions in the domain into data science tasks, how to provide efficient solutions and how to capture domain-specific knowledge.
The value produced by data science can take a potentially unlimited number of forms, but needs to be guided by considerations how to do this responsibly and ethically.
For example, in scientific applications the main value lies in novel scientific knowledge and models, and the main beneficiaries are scientists. In other application areas the beneficiaries can be society as a whole, organisations and companies, groups and individuals, or possibly a combination of these.
Often the results of data science can have different value for different beneficiaries, for example when they have commercial value for a company but impinge on the privacy of individuals. The extent to which data science can be a force for good depends crucially on a transparent appreciation of its effects on all actors in the relevant ecosystem, and on appropriate mitigation of any unwanted effects.
What can an association such as EuADS contribute, what is its mission and its European dimension?
The European Association for Data Science (EuADS) considers as its main mission to inform and unite the European data science community in all its facets.
Data scientists operate in a highly multi-disciplinary ecosystem with many stakeholders, and will benefit from a professional organisation aiming to build bridges and balance interests.
As a young subject, the data science discipline is still evolving and only partly mapped out. In addition, information about resources, opportunities and best practices is highly scattered and not readily available. These are the main opportunities for EuADS in a nutshell.
To this end, EuADS will employ a broad range of channels and activities.
These channels will convey information about conferences and events, funding calls, training resources, software and tools, and other opportunities.
In addition, EuADS will facilitate networking and communication through dedicated communication platforms, through two-way marketplace platforms, and through events such as summer schools and public lectures.
For the culturally, economically and politically diverse European countries, data can be a particularly beneficial integrative force.
For example, data can guide major European projects in environmental preservation, socio-economic development, and fostering equality and diversity. To achieve this, efforts towards a more datadriven European development need to be coordinated on a range of levels, from research policy to government.
EuADS does not consider itself a political organisation. However, as data scientists advise economic and political decision makers around the globe, EuADS – as the chief professional data science organisation in Europe – aims to inform policy makers and legislators, promote the availability of curated data, and encourage data science literacy.
EuADS does support the vision and aims of the European Union, which was one of the reasons to locate the Association in Luxembourg, in close proximity to central EU institutions. EuADS is, however, not limited to the EU in its activity or member recruiting, aiming to reach out to all data professionals in, or affiliated with, the European geographical area.