February 28, 2014

Why the New York Times Hired a Biology Researcher as Its Chief Data Scientist

Chris Wiggins

In a “Most Creative People” feature, Fast Company magazine recently interviewed associate professor Chris Wiggins, a faculty member of the Department of Systems Biology and Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, about his new appointment at one of the world’s most respected outlets for digital journalism. In this role, he will lead the development of a machine learning team that will help the New York Times to better understand how its audience is using and navigating its content.

In the interview Dr. Wiggins explains why machine learning is becoming increasingly important in the age of big data, and about the shared challenges that the natural sciences and the media are now both facing.

From the article:

What does biology have to do with media?

The pain that many fields are experiencing by becoming data driven is a pain that was experienced in biology 15 years ago when whole genomes started being sequenced. I think there is a lot in common about applying data science in the natural sciences and applying data science in the real world. Real people have questions from a different domain, they have abundant data, and it's a fun and creative task to try to reframe those domain questions as machine learning tasks.

Read the complete interview at Fast Company.