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SBE needs to find data scientists

SBE needs to find data scientists

Photographer:Fotograaf: Own picture

Professor Jos Lemmink thinks that the School of Business and Economics should appoint fifteen data scientists in the next two years. It is high time to make way for smart technology in the curriculum. He will give a presentation to the Faculty Board next week.

Over the past ten years former dean Jos Lemmink has taken a close look at approximately thirty economic and business administration faculties. He did this as a committee member of the accreditation organisations EQUIS (EU) and ACCSB (US). He also visited faculties all over the world roughly three times a year, in a so-called peer review team: usually three deans and a manager from the business community.

“For three days we have interviews with professors, lecturers, students and support staff to try and find out how education and research have been set up. On the basis of this, accreditation is granted or refused.”

What Lemmink noticed during those audits, was the lack of innovation in education and research. “Most faculties do what they have always done, with the same subjects and research areas. Current trends such as the digital economy and data science still play a minor role in the curriculum.”

ING bank

Businesses and banks are lagging behind too, but they are reinventing themselves. “If you do not innovate, you will end up like Kodak, the company that became a synonym for conservatism. It had all the digital technology ready to go, but still hung on to rolls of film.”

Financial institutes are in catch-up mode and are now increasingly looking for collaboration with smart start-ups. “Those are able to handle transactions with self-learning systems so cost effectively that banks have now outsourced this core business. The composition of the workforce is also being changed completely. Three years ago, the ING bank in Brussels had a major reorganisation, in which thousands of economists, business administration and legal experts were made redundant and hundreds of data scientists were hired.” 

Silos

But what is SBE doing to keep up with the times? “At the smart services campus in Heerlen we are doing a good job; we are currently running a project with the Rabobank at the BISS Institute. How to use artificial intelligence in call centres in order to improve the interaction with the customer. Fine, but this is limited to one programme: the master's of Business Intelligence. While smart technology also plays a role in the areas of marketing, organisation, financing, economics, you name it.”

The economics faculties have fallen behind and didn't pick up on the signals quickly enough. How is that possible? “Because of the speed with which developments are taking place, but also because of the rigid setup of disciplines. These are separate ‘silos’ with hardly any room for research at the interface of data science and business administration, for example. While the new reality is taking shape exactly between those fields, in the combination of disciplines.”

Quitting

It is time to invest in the curriculum, says Lemmink. “This means that SBE will have to invest in ten to fifteen data scientists in the coming years, who will need to give education and research a new impulse. This requires courage, because it is always a question of wait and see whether the new experts in areas such as artificial intelligence will merge with the existing economics and business administration experts. Experiments with cross-disciplinary projects are being carried out at BISS, but even there it is not always easy to form a close-knit team. You have to create a new culture together.”

And the new institute for data science IDS@UM? “SBE could certainly benefit from this, but the institute focuses in particular on the medical world.”

Lemmink expects students to be charmed by the innovation in education. “The BISS master's is growing rapidly. Anyway, the opposite also applies: if you don't do anything, students will quit.”

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