May the Best Analyst Win

Science  11 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6018, pp. 698-699
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6018.698

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A small Australian start-up company called Kaggle is exploiting the concept of "crowdsourcing" in a novel way. Kaggle's core idea is to facilitate the analysis of data by allowing outsiders to model it. To do that, the company organizes competitions in which anyone with a passion for data analysis can battle it out. The contests offered so far have ranged widely, from ranking international chess players to evaluating whether a person will respond to HIV treatments to forecasting if a researcher's grant application will be approved. Despite often modest prizes, the competitions have so far attracted more than 3000 statisticians, computer scientists, econometrists, mathematicians, and physicists from approximately 200 universities in 100 countries, Kaggle founder Anthony Goldbloom boasts. And the wisdom of the crowds can sometimes outsmart those offering up their data. In the HIV contest, entrants significantly improved on the efforts of the research team that posed the challenge. Citing this and other successes as examples, Goldbloom argues that Kaggle can help bring fresh ideas to data analysis.