NPR on Big Data Analytics

Extracted 30NOV2011 from

What do Facebook, Groupon and biotech firm Human Genome Sciences have in common? They all rely on massive amounts of data to design their products. Terabytes and even zettabytes of information about consumers or about genetic sequences can be harnessed and crunched....


Oren Etzioni, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, says this trend is fueling intense demand for mathematics and computing talent... Etzioni says a good data scientist can write algorithms that filter data, understand what they're telling you, and then graphically represent the information. The end result is like getting a bird's-eye view of a vast territory of information...

[What is a "data scientist" in any meaningful sense of the word scientist? To the extent it makes sense to use such a term, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to describe what science can bring to evidence-based decision making and action. See my comment on the post at ]

James Slavet, a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, says his firm invests in companies that use big data creatively and responsibly. He says data cannot stand in for human judgment. "They do use it to make the judgment more sound, more objective and to hopefully lead to better decision-making," he says.

[The relevant judgment is based on deep understanding of the phenomena about which (big) data provide more information. Mathematics and computer talent is a force multiplier in science but it must never be confused with expertise in the subject matter to which it is applied. There are "computer scientists" who advance the science and technology of machine computation but they should not be confused with scientists who might employ mathematics and computer talent to help them understand things about which data can be collected].