Competing Successfully in a Data Science Challenge
If you’re interested in data science, Topcoder has many types of challenges for you to try, each with interesting problems to solve:
Something for Everyone
Some challenges in this track require you to submit working code, while others are conceptual — requiring you to write out a great idea for a difficult problem. We know you’re sure to find something to suit your interests!
Keys to Success:
- Read every challenge carefully and understand submission requirements
- Ask questions in the challenge forum
- Understand how winners are chosen / how submissions are scored
- Register and submit within the deadlines
The Phases of a Data Science Challenge
Many data science challenges follow some variation of this structure:
2. Q&A and Solution Creation
4. Review & Winner Selection
5. Final Fixes
How to Compete
Here’s a step-by-step guide to a typical data science challenge:
1. Register for the Challenge
When registering for a challenge, you’ll need to agree to some Terms before you can view and download challenge documentation and begin competing. Once registered, you’re ready to compete!
2. Bullet-proof Your Solution
Read the requirements and associated forum posts carefully. You should also familiarize yourself with and the type of review your challenge will have and the screening and reviewing scorecards (linked on the challenge page) so you know what your solution will be judged against.
3. Get Familiar with Online Review
Online Review is a tool you can use to manage all of your registered challenges. When you login to Online Review (also known as “OR”), you can see all of the challenges you are registered for. In some challenges, you may be participating in a review process (see below) through this tool. This is also where reviewers will perform reviews and submit their scorecards.
4. Get Questions Answered
Each challenge has detailed information within the challenge page that you should follow. If you can’t find your answers there, you can visit that challenge’s forum and ask questions. Your fellow members, challenge copilot and the client will do their best to help clarify anything you need. It’s great to ask questions!
5. Submit Your Solution
You will submit your solution via the challenge page. Plan to submit a couple of hours before the actual deadline to allow yourself ample time to complete the upload to Topcoder’s servers in case any unforeseen issues arise.
6. Participate in the Review Process
Submissions undergo either a Topcoder Review (with a peer review board) or a client-based review in order to determine winners. As a submitter, your job is not done once you upload… you oftentimes must also participate in the Review process. The phase of Topcoder Review and an overview of the process are described here. Expect to spend some time reviewing your scorecards and possibly clarifying your work through appeals. Topcoder’s review process helps keep submission quality high, but it’s also a great way to learn from your mistakes and successes.
7. Win! Provide Final Fixes & Get Paid
After you’ve been chosen as the winner of the challenge, you will almost always have “final fixes” to complete. These are usually small pieces of your solution that were either not correct or missing and they are detailed in the scorecard. You must complete your final fixes within a short timeframe in order to be eligible to receive your entire payment. You will receive 75% of your prize after completing the fixes within the scorecard. The remaining 25% is paid 30 days later, after supporting your code/fixing any additional bugs that may arise during the 30 day support period. Payments are posted to your Payments page, where you may then choose to have your payment sent to you via different payment methods. Learn more about getting paid here.