Ms. I’Jaz Eberhardt Graduate Student, SUNY Buffalo State
On June 27, SUNY Buffalo State hosted Build a Better Buffalo with Data Analytics Across Disciplines (BBB-DAAD), a networking and brainstorming session for local professionals to engage in problem-solving by utilizing data analytics to promote collaboration among diverse local industries. The gathering was a kickoff to a series of similar events that will feature crowdsourcing of ideas, hackathons, and other practices to address some of the topics discussed.
The event, hosted by Joaquin Carbonara, Ph.D., developer and principal adviser of the Data Science and Analytics Program at Buffalo State, saw in attendance experts from various fields and students looking to share and further develop their professional endeavors.
The attendants included local industry leaders and members of the campus community, including PSM Coordinator Diane Marra, Provost James Mayrose, Susan McCartney, director of the Small Business Development Center, Mark Severson, dean of Natural and Social Sciences, Kevin Miller, dean of the graduate school, College Councilmember Melissa Brinson and Chief Information Officer Jacqueline Malcolm.
Before the main event, several keynote remarks were made and Severson received a special acknowledgement for his contributions as manager of Buffalo State’s research efforts.
During brainstorming sessions, members of each table discussed how software, data-gathering methods and integration of technologies and applications can be utilized to create cutting-edge solutions to problems faced by industries and their clients. Each group, consisting of members with different levels of expertise in data analytics and business management, was assigned a “leader” who was tasked with compiling and presenting their teams’ ideas after the conclusion of the brainstorming session.
Proposed areas of improvement through data analytics included education, healthcare, transportation and job recruitment, among others. Predictive analytics, identity protection methods and ease of user interface were some of the considerations discussed that would make data-gathering effective while nonintrusive. Issues and concerns that were raised in group discussions, including protection of personal privacy, oversimplification of program developments and bias in machine learning algorithms, reflected some of the greatest challenges in the fields of data science and analytics at large.
The consensus seemed to be that data analytics is shifting from “what” to “why;” in other words, the purpose of information gathered and analyzed is becoming just as important as the content itself. Group discussions revealed that understanding why a corporation or individual would want to obtain certain types of information may lead to discovering how certain industries utilize specific types of data to increase productivity, and how various types of information can be used to solve problems.
After the meeting, several local professionals shared their reactions to the evening and their thoughts on how leaders across industries could collaborate through data analytics to improve the city. Jeffrey Staniszewski, vice president of engineering at Utilant, expressed his appreciation for the different issues that were generated within the BBB-DAAD discussions. “There are many different problems out there that I’ve never really wrapped my head around and now I have an understanding of all the different things you can do with [data analytics],” he said.
John Ringland, associate professor of Mathematics at the University at Buffalo, praised the emphasis of collaborative efforts that was present throughout the evening. “I think I was just reminded that a bunch of people talking together can come up with so many more ideas and so many perspectives than one person could possibly do, and that’s super valuable,” he said.
Drew Fones, managing director of rel8ed.to Analytics and member of Buffalo State’s Data Science and Analytics advisory board, explained the importance of not only gathering problemsolving techniques from individual perspectives, but also using opportunities like this event to better serve the college and local communities. “One of the things that came up was, how can we use what we’re teaching here to fulfill the needs of the community,” he said. “What can we do to help out as well, and how can we make sure at Buffalo State that we’re teaching the things that need to be taught?”
In the spirit of one of the night’s themes, “Building a Better Buffalo,” Fones also shared the cruciality of implementing technological procedures across disciplines to improve local industries. “As a firm, I think what’s going to happen is you’re either going to succeed by embracing analytics and data or you’re going to fail in the long run, and every single firm has opportunities and or problems that can be solved by data science and analytics,” he said.
Staniszewski cited data analytics, business strategies and technological know-how as the three overlapping components of maintaining success in local industries. “You need someone who can understand all three realms,” he said. “You can have all the data in the world; if you’re not analyzing it and using it right, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Ringland said the event itself aided in improving local industries by promoting tradeoffs of perspectives and levels of expertise. “I think that events like this are very helpful and I think people like me, academics, and people like others at my table who are in business can very valuably communicate because there are things I know that they don’t know, and there are certainly many things that they know that I don’t know,” he said.
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