March 26, 2018

ODSC East 2018 Preview - A Q&A with ODSC Founder and CEO Sheamus McGovern

Data science. It’s a sector of technology that encompasses quite a lot of favorite topics including AI, machine learning, and deep learning analytics. It is also a field that, from an academic standpoint, is incredibly intriguing to anyone with even a passing interest in those technologies mentioned.

The Open Data Science Conference (ODSC) is a worldwide organization that brings experts in this field together to foster knowledge and development in all of these open source technologies.

In the first week of May, the Boston Exhibition & Convention Center will host the ODSC East 2018 event. The four-day event will have a myriad of speeches, panels, and workshops devoted to all things that fall under the data science umbrella.

In order to get a closer look at what attendees can expect to see at this year’s conference, we had a chance to speak with ODSC Founder and CEO Sheamus McGovern. During our conversation, McGovern explained how the conference came together and talked at length about who some of the guests are.

Also, if you are interested in attending the conference, you can receive 40% off your ticket using the code VENTUREFIZZ. Although you might want to sign up do sell out.

Colin Barry: The Open Data Science Conference is one of Boston tech’s premier events. What was the catalyst for the founding of ODSC?

Sheamus McGovern: There’s incredible demand for data science skills, but it's an increasing broad field.  We saw the need for a conference that allowed someone to quickly grasp the latest data science techniques and tools regardless if they were just starting their data science career or already had a Ph.D.

The conference has two main areas.  One deals with learning and applying data science languages, tools, topics, and models across the industry and in the real world. The second is around innovation in artificial intelligence and its impacting on business and society.  We have companies ranging from startups to fortune 500 including Algorithmia and DataRobot to IBM and Microsoft.

Finally, it needed to be an event welcoming to both data scientists and business professionals, where one could network, learn and perhaps collaborate. A place where insight from a five-minute conversation could save weeks of work or research.

CB: What kinds of technology encompass the term ‘open data science’?

SM: We call the conference Open Data Science since it refers to the open exchange of ideas around data science. Technology topics encompass deep learning, machine learning, predictive analytics, conversational AI, machine vision, and autonomous machines.

Many of the most important breakthroughs in data science and AI were openly shared by academics, labs, and others. We want to encourage and help grow that open exchange.
Hundreds of open source data science projects such as Python, R, scikit-learn, and Tensorflow have fueled the rapid growth of data science and artificial intelligence.  Anyone seeking to work on deep learning, machine learning, predictive analytics, autonomous machines and more has dozens of free and open source tools to choose from.

CB: What is the ultimate goal of the ODSC?

SM: Data science and artificial intelligence will become increasingly crucial to business and society in the coming decades. It will present many opportunities but also challenges.  Data scientists need to understand these challenges but so do technologists, business professionals, and government officials to name a few.

Our ultimate goal is to not add to the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, but rather help practitioners focus on the serious work ahead.

CB: Who and what should event goers expect at this year’s ODSC conference? What sets 2018’s event apart from the others?

SM: Quite a bit in fact. Firstly the conference has expanded to a four-day event to accommodate over 4,000 attendees. The first two days will encompass training but also include two days centered around Business and Innovation in AI.  This will look at innovation in AI across industries and particular financial services and healthcare/biotech.  

For ODSC, we have expanded the number of speakers to over 200. We have a renewed focus on current topics and trends including new tools in deep learning and machine learning, how to tackle fake news, building conversational AI systems, and much more.

CB: Would you be able to highlight one or more of the speakers at this year’s event?

SM: Our speaker committee works extremely hard to select our speakers, and all 200+ of them are rock stars in their field. With apologies to the many I don’t mention, here are a few.

Drew Conway is perhaps one of the world’s most well know data scientists; Catherine O’Neil wrote Weapons of Math Destruction;  Alex "Sandy" Pentland founded and directed the MIT Media Lab;  Gary Marcus is an award-winning NYU professor; Mike Tamir is head of data science at Uber; Andrew Muller is of scikit-learn fame; Allen Downey is one of the nicest and smartest data scientists on the planet; and Max Kuhn and Jared Lander are R geniuses.

The beautiful thing about ODSC is you get the chance to meet and converse with many of them either during talks or at our  “Meet the Speaker” or ”Meet the Expert,” or book signing events.  

CB: What kinds of workshops and training sessions will be at this year’s event?

SM: We’ve significantly expanded our selection this year to include 46 workshop and 34 training sessions.  Sessions vary from introductory to advanced, and some notables include:

  • Artificial Intelligence for Executives
  • Solving Real-World Problems in Machine Learning and Data Science
  • Applying Deep Learning to Article Embedding for Fake News Evaluation
  • Introduction to Python for Data Science
  • Getting Started with TensorFlow for Deep Learning
  • Bayesian Statistics Made Simple
  • Democratise Conversational AI - Scaling Academic Research to Industrial Applications
  • Power up your Computer Vision skills with TensorFlow-Keras
  • Deep Learning with Python using Keras and TensorFlow

CB: Anything else our audience should know about ODSC 2018?

SM: Many of the people who work in this field and those who want to work in the area are extremely passionate about what they do. It’s incredibly exciting time to be in data science with so many great opportunities and challenges on the horizon. ODSC is a wonderful opportunity for this community to come together to learn, meet and connect.

Colin Barry is a Staff Writer & Editor at VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash.