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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Data Analysis for Researchers? Who Us?

Recently I was looking at the requirements for a data analysis certificate at the local university. Biotechnology takes data analysis too lightly. Certification in anything other than HR is unheard of. The qualifications of a researcher or someone who designs experiments vary greatly. One company may require very little of a person working in their labs. The next company may require a PhD to run their western blots. Who is analyzing the data coming from the lab? Is the data handed off to a specialist for analysis?
The requirements for the data analysis certificate are the following:
Select 10 or 11 credits from the courses below to complete the certificate program.

Required courses
STAT 511 – Design and Data Analysis for Researchers I (4 cr.)

STAT 512 – Design and Data Analysis for Researchers II (4 cr.)

Electives

Select a minimum of two credits from the following courses.
STAA 565 – Quantitative Reasoning (1 cr.)

STAA 566 – Computational and Graphical Statistics (1 cr.)

STAT 547 – Statistics for Environmental Monitoring (3 cr.)

Admission to the University is not required to earn the Certificate of Completion in Data Analysis. You can register for any course in the certificate program as long as you meet the course prerequisites.
Data analysis for researchers? What kind of research? The prerequisite math requirements alone are beyond what most universities require for bio or life science degrees. The degrees most prevalent in biotechnology do not have the same standards as those required to obtain the data analysis certificate.

I took a look at a few jobs in the local area to see if they required the same rigorous standards as the university certification. The Allen Institute for Brain Science is hiring a Scientist I. This individual will be required to "Work with experimentalists to understand their data and to suggest new experiments." What would the difference be between "understanding the data" as it is arbitrarily shared with you by the experimentalists (as AIBS requires) versus packaging the data and subjecting it to the analytical tools taught for this certification program?

Of the jobs available on the WBBA website, none require any data analysis certification. To obtain this certification would be very expensive. The upside is the wonderful knowledge you will gain. The downside is having a useless degree with regards to working in biotechnology. It would be like having a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering in the Cargo Cults.

Stinking thinking? No. This is an area ready for profit. If the Reproducibility Initiative were to one day mature into a world class tester of the tests, analyzer of the analysis, it would need an entire department of nerds with data analysis certification. Job requirement: Certification.


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