And the weirdest way ever to use data science….

6. Doing actual science

The idea of using data science to do actual science is indeed strange. In fact many would call it impossible since data science is not science or a ‘type’ of science, if such a thing as a ‘type’ or ‘kind’ of science is even possible. It is not a field of inquiry or topic area of research in science. All science is data science in the sense that all science uses parts of some of the tools that fall under the rubric of “data science” to analyze data that is generated by the experiments that are conducted in that particular field or, in the case of purely theoretical fields, to analyze data sets that are relevant to the theory. So called data science is a tool of science, nothing more. Statistics and mathematics have always been useful tools for the scientist and they always will be, calling them data science does not make them science. More recently, powerful computers, and clever algorithms have greatly expanded the insights to be gained from even the most mundane of data sets. That said, using computers running algorithms to analyze data is not science, computers are still only tools of science and thus not science. A good, though imperfect analogy is a calculator in mathematics. It is a very useful tool for doing math, yet there is no field of “calculator mathematics.” Yes the analogy fails in many respects but the point of the example is clear, a tool of a thing is not the thing itself and never can be. This is no judgement as to the relative values or worth of data ‘science’ and actual science. Both are clearly very powerful and important and useful, but even though they may have some relationship, they are very different things. The infographic linked below helps explain.

Written by

Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store