Data science is one of today’s fastest-growing and most volatile professions. There’s no better way to stay up to date on the latest findings than by attending industry conferences.
Galit Shmueli, professor of business analytics at NTHU, said her one piece of advice for data scientists just getting started is to “attend a conference or two, see what people are working on, what are the challenges, and what’s the atmosphere.”
And there are a ton of these events out there. KDNuggets posts a massive list of conferences and events, and there are blog posts like 48 Big Data & Cloud Computing Events and Conferences You Should Attend. But how do you choose?
I reached out to five data scientists to find out what conferences they won’t be missing in the coming months:
Kirk Borne, Principal Data Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton and board member of Soft10 and SYNTASA
Amy Heineike, former Director of Mathematics at Quid
Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, President and Editor of KDnuggets and co-founder of SIGKDD and KDD Conferences.
Hadley Wickham, Chief Scientist at RStudio and Professor of Statistics at Rice University
Here are some of their top choices.
The Strata Data Conference, put on by O’Reilly and Cloudera, may be the most popular and established data conferences in the world. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama gave the keynote for the San Jose conference via video. How’s that for a speaker lineup?
Amy Heineike, who spoke at the event last year, recommends Strata because “it’s a really great opportunity to meet a load of interesting people.” Strata Data Conference also got votes of approval from Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro and Kirk Borne.
Predictive Analytics World
Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro recommends Predictive Analytics World (PAW). PAW has six conferences coming up in NY, DC, London, Berlin, San Francisco, and Chicago.
PAW also got a vote from Kirk Borne for being a “smaller, cozier conference.” And if small and cozy is what you’re looking for in an event, Borne also recommends the Wolfram Data Summit (now Wolfram Technology Conference), DataDrivenBusiness.com conferences, and Datanami’s annual Leverage Big Data conference (now Advanced Scale Forum). “I am also looking forward to a new one this year: The Data Science Conference,” says Kirk. The Data Science Conference bills itself as “the first and only vendor-free, sponsor-free, and recruiter-free data science conference.”
“UseR! is the yearly gathering of R users. Next year it’s going to be at Stanford and it coincides with John Chambers' 75th birthday, so it’s going to be big!” says Hadley Wickman. The annual R user conference is “the main meeting of the international R user and developer community.” In other words, if you use R, this conference is a can’t-miss.
Sessions are packed with people tackling interesting data problems with R, and many present packages so you can immediately use what they’ve learned. The presenters and audience are incredibly diverse: people come from all over the world, and tackle all sorts of problems.
Lillian Pierson and Kirk Borne both recommended the IBM Insight (now IBM Think) conference. Pierson recommends this event for the story-telling. “The opening sessions of IBM Insight are incredible. I learned so much about what’s happening on the forefront of my field just in those short 1.5 hour sessions. The stories told were simply fascinating.”
Joint Statistical Meetings
“The American Statistical Association's (ASA) Joint Statistical Meeting (JSM) is the biggest gathering of statisticians (6,000+!) in the world,” says Wickman. He says it can be a bit overwhelming, with 50 parallel tracks to choose from, and the quality of talks can be highly variable. But he says the event is still worth it:
For statisticians, or data scientists looking to sharpen their stats skills, this event is still a must: it’s the best place to learn about the latest in stat research, and more and more talks feature R packages. There are also plenty of sessions on teaching data science and on how it’s used in industry.”
IEEE International Conference on Data Mining
The IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM) claims to be the “world’s premier research conference in data mining,” which is why Kirk Borne recommends this conference for any hard-core data science or machine learning enthusiast.
If this sounds like the kind of event you’re into, Kirk also recommends SIAM Data Mining, IEEE/ACM Big Data Computing, and the KDD Conferences (more info on this event in the next section). For data mining practitioners interested in events with greater specialization, Kirk suggests the annual IEEE eScience conference series, XLDB.org workshops, and the annual SSDBM.org conferences.
“OK, I am biased,” Piatetsky-Shapiro says, “I founded these conferences back in 1989.” Personal bias aside, there’s a reason this conference has stuck around for nearly 30 years. The annual ACM SIGKDD Conference is a forum for data mining researchers and practitioners from academia, industry, and government.
The conference map
If none of these events are close to you, find another conference that you can get to and show up. “I’m sure that many data science conferences are great, because the field itself is great and is occupied by many great minds and awesome people,” says Kirk Borne. “It is almost impossible to have anything but a brilliantly useful data science conference.”