Data-driven science is a failure of imagination

by Petr Keil, R you cereal? blog, January 2, 2012

Data-driven scientists (data miners) such as Rosling believe that data can tell a story, that observation equals information, that the best way towards scientific progress is to collect data, visualize them and analyze them (data miners are not specific about what analyze means exactly). When you listen to Rosling carefully he sometimes makes data equivalent to statistics: a scientist collects statistics. He also claims that “if we can uncover the patterns in the data then we can understand.” I know this attitude: there are massive initiatives to mobilize data, integrate data, there are methods for data assimilation and data mining, and there is an enormous field of scientific data visualization. … And they are all excited about big data: the larger is the number of observations (N) the better. Rosling is right that data are important and that science uses statistics to deal with the data. But he completely ignores the second component of statistics: hypothesis (here equivalent to model or theory). …

To read this article as well as the interesting debate that followed in the comments, please visit Data-driven science is a failure of imagination | R you cereal?.

 

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