Everything is bigger in Texas… that’s a saying, right? Now I can’t claim that I had a true Texan experience (whatever that means) in the few days I was in Dallas, but I will say that SAS Global Forum 2015 was the largest meeting of SAS nerds yet. With the number of registrants nearing five thousand, we took over the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Centre for four days of keynote presentations, hands-on workshops, breakout sessions, and lots of SAS tips and tricks.
What is SAS Global Forum?
SAS Global Forum brings together SAS experts and enthusiasts from all over the world. From students to professionals, it is THE networking and conference event for SAS users. This year, there was a strong focus on SAS Studio, the powerful, web-based point-and-click friendly version of SAS, as well as Hadoop and “Big Data”. With the Internet of Things, there will be endless gigabytes and terabytes of data out there. As the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of SAS Jim Davis said, “…rather than talking about the Internet of Things, we should be talking about the Analytics of Things.” So much to analyze. So many questions and problems that analytics can address.
As I just told the record crowd at #SASGF15, rather than talking about the IOT, we should be talking about the Analytics of Things.
— Jim Davis (@Davis_Jim) April 27, 2015
As a statistician and data analyst, I work with health data in food allergy and rheumatology research. However, sometimes I feel a bit removed from the purpose of what I’m doing, and how it translates to improved health care and health outcomes. Oftentimes I see data as data. Perhaps it’s my lack of subject matter knowledge that maintains a gap between what I do and its impact. Then I heard Jake Porway of DataKind speak.
DataKind is an organization that brings together pro bono data scientists with NGOs and non-profits to find solutions to real world problems. What a brilliant idea! DataKind is doing amazing work with non-profits to make tangible changes and improvements in the world through data expertise. Jake gave examples about using mapping algorithms to look for stagnant water sources that spawn mosquitoes and malaria. He talked about using teen crisis centre text messages to look at contact patterns in order to improve response quality. So many non-profit organizations are sitting upon databases that can be analyzed to answer important policy-changing questions; however, they lack the data science skills to delve into the data. DataKind is that liason between data scientists and analysts willing to volunteer their time and expertise, and the non-profits with a desire to make sense of their data. Jake spoke so passionately about how we live in an age with reams of data that can be used for social good. I found him absolutely inspiring.
Are you a data scientist who is willing to donate time and expertise to solve complex problems for the greater good? If so, I recommend checking out DataKind at www.datakind.org/getinvolved. How can you contribute?
Oh, another conference highlight? Conference swag!