No, You’re Not a Data Scientist
The hottest new job title invading the world of market research is “data scientist.” It has many of us starting to wonder, aren’t we all data scientists? Whether quantitative or qualitative, we spend most of our time collecting, manipulating, interpreting, and presenting data. Our methods are grounded in social science. Put the two together and that makes us data scientists, right?
I came across an excellent summary of how statistics is different from data science, which applies broadly to most of what we do in market research (even qualitative research). It convinced me that no, we are not data scientists.
This statement is from the 2013 Workshop on The Future of the Statistical Sciences, convened in London by the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society, and four other leading statistical organizations:
Statistics can be most succinctly described as the science of uncertainty. While the words “statistics” and “data” are often used interchangeably by the public, statistics actually goes far beyond the mere accumulation of data. The role of a statistician is:
- To design the acquisition of data in a way that minimizes bias and confounding factors and maximizes information content
- To verify the quality of the data after it is collected
- To analyze data in a way that produces insight or information to support decision-making
These processes always take into explicit account the stochastic uncertainties present in any real-world measuring process, as well as the systematic uncertainties that may be introduced by the experimental design. This recognition is an inherent characteristic of statistics, and this is why we describe it as the “science of uncertainty,” rather than the “science of data.”
This is an excellent and useful description of statistics. It is also an excellent description of why market research, generally, is not data science. It is because nearly all of us go beyond the accumulation, manipulation, and analysis of data.
Indeed, it is worth remembering that our business partners and clients do not really care that much about data, except to the extent that it helps answer their questions. Data is merely the tool that helps us get to the stories they do care about.