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December 2, 2005

M2005 Conference Sets Industry Standard for Data Mining

By Mary Crissey

SAS Institute Inc., a provider of business analytics software, recently hosted its 8th annual data mining technology conference, M2005.  Nearly 700 attendees from 43 states and 18 countries came to Las Vegas from 300 business, academic and government organizations for the chance to hear from 50 noteworthy speakers.

M2005 is the largest data mining conference of its type, and has become known for gathering data mining visionaries, practitioners and curiosity seekers from around the world for an exchange of the most up-to-date information, newest concepts and best practices in the industry.

Don Henderson, principal of Henderson Consulting, was attending his second data mining conference. “I'm always interested to see how folks are using data mining,” he said. “And it's interesting to note that data mining has become more mainstream over the years. This has been an eye-opening and educational event.”
M2005 featured four keynote addresses, two special afternoon keynote presentations and more than 30 session talks across industries and business functions. This year's keynote speakers featured four highly regarded data mining visionaries:

  • David Hand, professor of statistics in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College of London and author of more than 20 data mining books, kicked off the conference with the presentation, “What You Get Is What You Want: Some Dangers of Black-Box Data Mining.” “Data mining is about taking risks,” he said. Hand urged attendees to take extra care with their work, to be aware of problems and to plan strategies for issues that will inevitably arise.
  • Johannes Gehrke, Associate Professor of Computer Science and a Faculty Associate Director of the Cornell Theory Center at Cornell University, spoke on “Privacy-Preserving Data Mining.” He discussed the difference between trusted and untrusted data collectors and the types of disclosure inherent in each.
  • David Salsburg, an independent consultant who pioneered pharmaceutical statistics at Pfizer, presented, “Ten Percent is Not…”  According to Salsburg, 10 percent of data is not true, not correct, not categorized correctly and not in the units of measurement observers think it is.
  • Gregory S. Smith, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at World Wildlife Fund, discussed data mining as an important aspect of business intelligence.

And in a colorful afternoon presentation, Professors Jay Coleman at the University of North Florida and Allen Lynch of Mercer University, along with Mike DuMond of the ERS Group, an economic consulting firm in Tallahassee, FL, discussed the PROB IT function within college sports.  Coleman and Lynch also discussed their use of predictive analytics and how their results proved remarkably accurate predicting the outcome of NCAA Tournament basketball games. They also demonstrated how they used predictive analytics to consistently select which teams would be selected by the NCAA Selection Committee (with 94 percent accuracy).  DuMond showed how a similar application could help make sense of the college football recruiting process.

Many attendees at the conference were eager to hear from Dave Duling, software manager at SAS.  Duling presented a “Data Mining Update,” which highlighted features of SAS Enterprise Miner 5.2 and SAS Text Miner 2.3, which just began shipping to SAS customers this month.

M2005 was co-chaired by Michael Berry, Founder and Principal Consultant of Data Miners, and Jerry Oglesby, director of SAS' Higher Education Consulting group.

This year's conference included a new Poster Session that showcased submissions from attendees. Additional training courses were offered during workshops both before and after the conference. Among the titles: Extending SAS Enterprise Miner 5, Predicting Customer Value Using Hazard and Intensity Models, Data Mining Techniques, Decision Tree Modeling, and others.

SAS has already begun planning next year's conference, M2006, to be held once again in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel. Scheduled for Oct. 23-24, 2006, M2006 will build on the foundations of M2005 and will offer a similar lineup of world-renowned industry experts discussing the latest data mining techniques and best practices. Next year's conference co-chairs were announced during M2005: SAS' Jerry Oglesby, and Tom Bohannon, assistant vice president of Institutional Research and Testing at Baylor University.
Mary Crissey is Technology Marketing Manager at SAS Institute, and a council officer for the Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Mary can be reached at

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