I recently attended SciDataCon (part of the International Data Week) in Denver, which is a conference focused on all aspects of the science data workflow – from planning to long-term archival and all the people, processes, and other stuff surrounding it. One talk in particular, that resonated with me was a panel discussion called “Defining the Data Professional” in which the panel discussed the difference between a data scientist and the myriad other roles involved in the data lifecycle that broadly define the professional field.
The reason that this has resonated so strongly with me is because I’ve never really known what to call myself independent of my position as the Data Operations Supervisor at the NSIDC. I’ve never felt like there was a job title that sufficiently covered what I do. For instance, a computer programming professional can put, “Software Engineer” or “Software Architect” on his/her resume and an employer can clearly understand what this person does and how they fit into the organization. I’ve often wondered whether the skills I have added up to anything, or whether they even had value outside the organization at which I currently work.
I think the sticking point recently has been that the term “Data Scientist” has been in vogue. The last time I went to Iceland, I went to a panel discussion with CCP Quant and Dr. Eyo about data science, and recognized that their definition, while certainly interesting, didn’t really fit what I do professionally (though I may dabble in it as a hobby). Similarly, while I participated in the Informatics team, and was clearly in the company of data scientists, I never really considered that my career path. So, if not a data scientist, then what?
I haven’t yet settled on a term that I like (which is fine – I’m not looking to market my resume anytime soon), but something along the lines of data archives manager or data systems manager has a nice ring to it.