The NYT has an interesting article on the importance and demand of statistics in the internet age. The main theme is that although huge amount of complex data is available, there is a pressing need for useful analysis, identifying patterns, spotting anomalies, and understanding and making use of the information. This can be for marketing purposes, and business decision making. Other applications mentioned are improving Internet search and online advertising, cancer research and optimizing food shipments.
The application in recommendation systems is also outlined with the example of the recent Netflix contest where $1 million were offered to anyone who could significantly improve the company’s recommendation system. The article also highlights some well know companies where statisticians are well sought. Among them are Google:
“I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “And I’m not kidding.”
Opportunities at IBM are also mentioned:
I.B.M., seeing an opportunity in data-hunting services, created a Business Analytics and Optimization Services group in April. The unit will tap the expertise of the more than 200 mathematicians, statisticians and other data analysts in its research labs — but that number is not enough. I.B.M. plans to retrain or hire 4,000 more analysts across the company.
In the article, related fields such as mathematics, economics and computer science are also highlighted. The main take home message is that numerical skills are not required in traditional fields such as the insurance industry but in other businesses too.