SPEAKER: Professor Riaan de Jongh



Professional Training and Research Programmes in Data Science

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In the past the mathematical sciences included the fields of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research (OR), but nowadays, as far as its practical application is concerned, these fields cannot operate without Computer Science. The latter field, with huge assistance by engineers, has introduced us to Machine Learning, a mathematically orientedsubfield of Artificial Intelligence. The term Data Science has become popular and, in my opinion, incorporates all the above-mentioned fields but with the focus on real-world problem solving.

Trained as a Statistician, I became involved inthe field of Operations Research (OR) in 1978. Then, OR was considered to be a branch of the mathematical sciences concerned with real-world problem solving in an inter- and multi-disciplinary way. As a young man with aspirations to become a professional in this field, I was often disillusioned by the lack of acknowledgement the field enjoyed by industry and the general public. At the time, I felt that academics operating in this field often failed to address the real world problems that they were confronted with.This was mainly due to a lack of willingness or ineptness to address and formulate the real world problems properly. Of course, as always, there were a few exceptions!

The emerging fields of Big Data and Data Science arecurrently disrupting business in most industries. In my opinion, these fieldscan learn a lot from early OR and Statistical Science. It also presents many new opportunities for Operations Researchers and Statisticians. In this talk, I will demonstrate why the wisdom of the early mathematical scientists should be considered when designing training and research programmes to meet the challenges posed by Big Data and Data Science. More specifically, I will provide a framework and guidelines for implementing professional training and research programmes in the mathematical sciences. In the process I will emphasise the importance of interacting with professional societies.



Prof Riaan de Jongh is the Director of the Centre for Business Mathematics and InformaticsĀ® at North-West University (NWU). He has received awards for the best published research in a particular year from the Operations Research Society of South Africa (ORSSA), the South African Statistical Association (SASA), the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) and Risk.net. He also received a Thought Leader Award from SASA, a National Recognition award from ORSSA and was a finalist for an NSTF award. He is a Past President and Fellow of SASA, a chartered member of ICCSSA, a founding member of the international triennial Mathematics in Finance Conference, and served on committees for the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), the Professional Risk Manager International Association (PRMIA), and the International Society for Business and Industrial Statistics (ISBIS). Currently, he is Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the North-West University’s Pension Fund.