In what's likely just the beginning of a long-term story, job listings indexed by employment search engine Indeed.com indicate that market demand for data scientists and people capable of working with "big data" took a huge leap over the last year. David Smith of Revolution Analytics performed several related queries and posted the results today on his company's blog.
The most common definition of "big data" is datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools, such as Excel. It's a soft term and is super trendy right now - but that doesn't mean the trend's not big and real.
"Even if you just look at it as a superficial marketing change, it shows how excited people are about applying statistical techniques to new problems," says leading independent data scientist Pete Warden. "The success of companies like Google and Amazon has encouraged a whole generation of business leaders to try and replicate their data-driven processes, and left them searching for data scientists."
What does a data scientist do? "Right now, everybody with data knows that there's value in there, that they should be doing something," says Edd Dumbill, program chair for Strata, O'Reilly's new conference on Data.
"Trouble is, nobody's entirely clear on the next steps, but they do know that a data scientist can help frame questions and transform data into useful insight.
"In some ways, yes, there's just a fashion for job title change. But there's a bit more there. The data scientist's brief is exploratory and entrepreneurial, prospecting for and unlocking value in data."
Dumbill says he sees the demand first hand. "At the Strata conference in February the job board was plastered with recruitment ads in no time at all," he says. "Some enterprising person even advertised a job by using their computer to advertise a wireless network ID saying they were hiring."
Indeed, that almost every speaker on stage said they were looking hard to make new hires was one of the most striking things about that event in my memory as well. I've got high hopes that a growing appreciation for analyzing the world quantitatively will yield opportunities to make it a better place qualitatively.
If you're interested in this trend, check out this list of data-loving journalists on Twitter.