By 2026, the demand for data scientists in the United States is expected to increase by 28%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Understanding influences on this career path is essential to help fill the more than 1 million jobs that will be created — as well as the more than 190,000 estimated data science jobs in shortage.

Investigating this field, Shafaq Chaudhry, director of Research Technology at UCF’s Office of Research, is part of a team that recently won two awards for a paper titled “Understanding Factors that Influence Research Computing and Data Careers in Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing.”  The Association for Computing Machinery awarded Chaudhry and her co-authors a Best Paper award in the Workforce Development, Training, Diversity and Education track for its upcoming Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing 2022 (PEARC’ 22) conference as well as the PEARC22 Phil Andrews Award. Named for the advanced computing infrastructure pioneer, the Phil Andrews award is granted to a manuscript deemed to be the most impactful in practice of research computing.

The paper is a detailed look at understanding what are some of the key factors that influence career-related decisions for research computing and data (RCD) professionals. The study examines these factors from organizational socialization stages of pre-arrival into this field; entry into the field; becoming an active member of an organization (such as role expansion or upward mobilization); and factors of disengagement. The researchers also looked at how various genders, career stages and types of RCD roles play varying degree of importance to these factors that influence getting hired into RCD positions, promotions, switching and leaving RCD jobs. Chaudhry will present this work at the upcoming PEARC22 conference in Boston July 10-14.

This work is part of a larger project through the Campus Research Computing Consortium’s Professionalization and Career Arcs effort to describe different paths for RCD roles, which are different from traditional IT roles. The aim of the consortium is to enable recruiters to market these positions better, improve recruitment activities and enlighten possibilities for their potential future workforce. Studying these patterns will also help the existing RCD workforce gain a better understanding of their future paths in the field and help them identify areas of growth, professional development, and opportunities, thereby improving workforce retention, Chaudhry says.

Coauthors of the study also included Arman Pazouki, manager, Research Computing Support Services, Northwestern University; Patrick Schmitz, founder and principal consultant at Semper Cogito; Elizabett Hillery, assistant director, high performance computing, Purdue University; and Kerk Kee, associate professor at Texas Tech University.

Chaudhry leads a team of cyberinfrastructure facilitators and professionals at UCF and says she’s  passionate about gender equity in STEM careers. She is also the affiliate lead for Central Florida’s NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program with the aim to encourage high school womxn to pursue careers in computing and IT. She has a Ph.D. in computer engineering, and her research interests include cyberinfrastructure workforce development, public safety communications, wireless networks, and software-defined networking.