Accidental Scientist Hawks 'Online Marketplace for Brains'

Cade Metz | Wired | December 13, 2011

Jeremy Howard is not a data scientist. Except that, well, he is. At the University of Melbourne, he studied philosophy. Then he tackled the metaphysics of business operations, spending the better part of a decade with management consulting outfits AT Kearney and McKinsey & Company. And then he founded, built, and sold off two startups, including one that hosted e-mail services. He didn’t realize he was a data scientist until he stumbled onto Kaggle.

Kaggle bills itself as an online marketplace for brains. Over 23,000 data scientists are registered with the site, including Ph.D.s spanning 100 countries, 200 universities, and every discipline from computer science, math, and econometrics to physics and biomedical engineering. Companies, governments, and other organizations come to the site with data problems — problems that require the analysis of large amounts of information — and the scientists compete to solve them. Sometimes they compete for prize money, sometimes for pride, and sometimes just for the thrill. “We’re making data science a sport,” reads the site’s tagline.