SAS® works with the Dublin Institute of Technology to develop Masters programme
Students enrol in higher education programme to develop practical and transferrable data analytics skills for use in the workplace
In an economy where businesses are looking to make better business decisions and gain intelligence from their information, big data skills are in higher demand than ever. In response, the industry must work with academic institutions to ensure future students are equipped with the necessary abilities. The Irish government is responding to this requirement, and recent reforms will provide 2,000 additional IT graduates over twelve months, from key universities and colleges across the country, according to Ireland's Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn.
In 2009, the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) launched an MSc in Computing (Data Analytics). The course was developed in partnership with SAS, and other industry experts, which helped to identify the content that would provide the best skills to prepare students for careers as data analytics professionals. The resulting course is structured around 12 modules, including Machine Learning, Data Management and Visualisation. The course includes a dissertation project, where students are able to conduct projects in conjunction with an organisation or within their own place of work, in order to apply their data analytics skills practically.
"Our MSc course enables students to take a step closer to the real-world. Getting SAS involved really helped to make it more practical, more relevant and more interesting." said Brian Mac Namee, Lecturer at the School of Computing, Dublin Institute of Technology.
SAS continues to work closely with DIT: members of the SAS team regularly come in to present to students and lecturers alike about the latest SAS solutions and its integration with the MSc programme. This ensures that students are equipped with the most-up-to-date SAS skills that will not only help them complete the course, but are also highly sought-after in the workplace. Students and academics at the DIT are also offered the opportunity to obtain SAS certification alongside their Masters programme.
Applying data analytics skills in industry
As part of her Computing (Data Analytics) course, student Sarah Keane worked with the Revenue Irish Tax and Customs for her dissertation project. Each year, the department risk-assesses people who complete their own tax returns to ensure they are compliant and to identify cases of fraud or tax evasion. Revenue Irish Tax and Customs already uses SAS for the risk assessment of tax entities in real time.
Sarah's project looked at newly-registered entities. Using SAS, she explored how new tax entities relate to older ones, identifying links between cases, in order to ultimately improve targeting of risk. For example, she wanted to identify if new entities were linked to older tax entities that were found not to be tax-compliant.
Sarah was working with large anonymised data sets, including information on how they relate to one another. She identified 'hard links', such as professional connections between tax-payers, and 'soft links' such as geographical location. This information is collected by Revenue Irish Tax and Customs when entities register and is updated every time they file a tax return.
In order to compare the datasets, Sarah used SAS® Enterprise Guide for data exploration and data preparation stages of the project, during which all data sets were integrated and new attributes were calculated for each row. The output was a new 'network analysis' data set, which had one row per network link. Using SAS code, attributes were calculated for each row, for example, number of relationships. This value included centrality measures in order to indicate the closeness of relationships. Entities with a close relationship to a non-compliant entity were flagged; these entities were used to build a model in SAS® Enterprise Miner, which was then applied to the entire dataset to identify entities with a high probability of non-compliance, tax evasion or fraud.
"I was working with extremely large datasets, and SAS was ideal for this; I was able to develop sophisticated models with a minimum of coding," said Sarah.
Sarah was able to group the entities based on their network links, and then calculate a group risk for their whole network. Across the whole network, smaller sub-networks were identified and a risk score was attributed to them.
"Using SAS enabled a more targeted approach in identifying risky tax entities. Using networks and interactions in decision making processes will provide better results faster," said Sarah.
Benefits gained from SAS-based research
Revenue Irish Tax and Customs has been running an internship programme with the Dublin Institute of Technology and other third level institutions for a number of years. Students spend three months in the organisation, working on projects using SAS and producing results, insights and 'proof of value' that can lead to further work and eventual production in the department's day-to-day business areas.
"Network analysis, such as that undertaken in Sarah's exploratory project, provides us with a key tool in risk assessment, and further student interns have continued to build on Sarah's work to explore the potential of this. We're now looking at how to develop the use of network analysis on a wider basis across the department, and plan take on further student interns to continue to try out new data analytics initiatives using SAS," said Dr Duncan Cleary, Research and Analytics Branch, Revenue Irish Tax and Customs.
Students who have previously completed the Masters course have gone on to careers in the financial services sector, banks, consultancy firms, telecoms, and data analytic start-ups.
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Dublin Institute of Technology
Providing students with the computing tools required to continue into data analytics careers, and to develop SAS-based programmes within organisations via interning programmes
SAS® Enterprise Guide; SAS® Enterprise Miner
Development of practical, relevant skills increasingly in demand in the workplace; ease of use; models can be built with minimal coding; ability to tailor functionality to meet requirements.
“Our MSc course enables students to take a step closer to the real-world. Getting SAS involved really helps make it more practical, more relevant and more interesting.”
Brian Mac Namee
Lecturer at the School of Computing, Dublin Institute of Technology.