Learning from the Data Science Community

Daniel, one of our Heat Seek team members, recently attended the Open Data Science Conference in Boston. This conference, a crossroads for technologists and data scientists committed to open-source tools, was a great opportunity to learn from leading data scientists about new techniques and technologies for extracting knowledge from data.

As a non-profit, Heat Seek has to do much with limited resources. As our last blog posts have shown, we’re digging into New York City’s open data to discover new patterns and trends in housing and heating. Open source machine-learning libraries like Scikit-Learn, which was covered extensively at the conference, will be very helpful in helping us get at these insights and make a compelling case to policy makers and funders.

Additionally, there were more theoretical talks by leading engineers and professors on the conceptual side of data science. Wes McKinney, of pandas fame, spoke to an overflowing room about the goals and future directions of the ubiquitous DataFrame, while David Epstein spoke about the challenges of feature engineering, and why this aspect of data science is one of the most subtle and important. It can be tempting to jump head-first into a dataset and start training models — talks like these remind us that moving thoughtfully and deliberately through a problem is often the key to finding impactful insights.

Finally, the conference hosted numerous speakers who are hard at work on their own projects to fight injustice. Eric Schles, a data scientist and NYU professor, spoke about his work with the New York City’s District Attorney’s office, using open-source tools to detect human trafficking and bring traffickers to justice. Working to ease the burdens of our most vulnerable populations can seem overwhelming — it’s valuable and encouraging to learn from others committed to the fight for social justice.

All in all, it was a great conference and we are glad that someone from the team was able to attend. We look forward to keeping in touch with the organizers and attending their future events!