MAY 1, 2012 4:19am ET

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Data Management is Based on Philosophy, Not Science


There's a joke running around on Twitter that the definition of a data scientist is “a data analyst who lives in California.” I'm sure the good natured folks of the Golden State will not object to me bringing this up to make a point. The point is: Thinking purely in terms of marketing, which is a better title -- data scientist or data philosopher?

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Comments (15)
I'm so sad that I can't share this with anyone without them looking at me like I've grown another head.
Posted by Susan S | Tuesday, May 01 2012 at 11:26AM ET
I agree that you have done a great job of characterizing Data Management as more closely aligned to philosophy than science.

There are other aspects of Data Management that generally fall under the topic of data governance and stewardship. I would say these are closely aligned with Management. Borrowing from Wikipedia, management is "the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively."

Data Science exists as another class of activity, more specialized than Data Management but reliant on it. Again borrowing from Wikipedia, science "is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions." Clearly there are many computational physicists, biologists, economist, and others who organize data as a representation of knowledge. They build computational models that produce testable explanations and predictions.

I do work in a university where we have programs that encourage students to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate using data modeling and mathematics. (See or work follows the guidance of the Scientific Method. We produce Data Scientists who have been taught Data Management.

The boundary between data and science is a fruitful one that has produced significant impact. We ought to use the term when it is appropriate.

Posted by Tom K | Tuesday, May 01 2012 at 11:53AM ET
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