Welcome to Element of Science! This blog serves as a place to capture and share interesting bits about data and society. I’m going to start with a link to this 2005 TED talk by mathematician Peter Donnelly.
This talk is important to me for 3 reasons:
- It discusses in a humorous way how communication gaps can arise when talking to an audience not already familiar with your work. “Modelling genes (jeans)” is a great job description that gets a different reaction than data scientist or bioinformatician.
- It reminds us that analyzing data is a specialization and like all specializations it requires judgment that is not necessarily intuitive to a lay person.
- It reminds us that there can be terrible, real-world consequences when we get data analysis and the related conclusions wrong. The world needs more contextual understanding to go with the pile of data we have and make. If the assumptions are violated or the data is not clean and applicable, we are by definition working from an inappropriate model.
How can we apply these lessons in our everyday work?
- Seek common ground and when possible communicate with multiple modes (i.e. words and pictures).
- Never stop learning and continually question what we don’t know.
- Be explicit about our assumptions and which data counts.