Data is driving discovery

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Methods of scientific discovery evolved slowly over many centuries, from empirical observations about the natural world to experimentation and the hypothesis-driven scientific method. But now, access to massive data sets is driving a new approach to breakthrough discovery. Scientists and others are able to combine the sheer scale of available data with advanced statistical techniques to find new relationships and recognize unexpected patterns with significant implications.

This data-driven approach to discovery is relevant to far more than just the scientific community. Businesses of all sizes can access the data needed for this type of exploration and use it to reveal everything from operational inefficiencies to new growth opportunities. Several industries are already letting data drive focused discovery in key functions such as enterprise risk assessment, customer behavior analysis and fraud detection. But working with massive datasets comes with its own risks. Given enough data, any relationship can seem to be statistically significant. Data-driven discovery requires applying more advanced techniques and posing the right questions to guide discovery – all fueled by a real desire to answer the question “why?” at a fundamental level.

Rashik Parmar

“IT has been all about reducing cost and boosting productivity. But big data and robust analytics are changing all that. We’re seeing data-enabled innovations expand topline revenues by as much as 30-60 percent.”

Wendy Perchick
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

“Thirty years ago, all I saw in data were problems. What I see now, and almost to a dizzying degree, are solutions.”

Herman De Prins

“We really are on the brink of a new era in healthcare…Data analytics are informing new treatment solutions and that has the potential to revolutionize medicine.”

Wayne Peacock

“There’s really fascinating work going on to truly understand member behavior using data, both opportunities for us to do more and opportunities for us to improve what we’re already delivering.”

Patricia Morrison
Cardinal Health
“Marketing isn’t just about being creative or about events and communication anymore, it’s about learning how to look at data in a different way.”

Tariq Shaukat
Caesars Entertainment

“As you start improving your ability to act on flows of data, you can respond while behaviors are still happening. And that is very powerful.”

John Foreman

“Listen, data science is not magic…Data science at its most basic level just takes raw transactional data and translates it through math and statistics so that it’s useful for the business. It allows you to make better decisions.”

Michael Oldham
University of California, San Francisco

“But rather than design experiments, we can now capture so much data that we can see patterns emerge. There’s a lot to be learned by taking a step back and letting the data tell its own story.”

Michael Gutnick
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

“The discussion in data analytics is often about deriving intelligence from the data. We want to go one step further. We want to create wisdom about how to treat the next generation of patients.”

Kristin Russell
State of Colorado

“One of the first things that I recommend to my peers is to go into the CEO’s office and ask one question: If you had access to a specific dataset that you feel would have the potential to transform our company, what would it be?”

Jeff Goering
Baltimore Ravens

“Football generates a volume of statistical information that he felt could be applied to building a winning team. It’s the “Moneyball” concept.”

William Gerber
TD Ameritrade

“Data analysis should be able tell us specifically why any of our clients change their habits. It’s complicated, but it’s precisely the type of analysis I want to be able to pull off. This level of data analysis should change our margins, our earnings per share and our overall performance.”

Related reading:

Reinventing Society in the Wake of Big Data, Alex Pentland, Edge, August 30, 2012

Data Driven Discovery in Science: The Fourth Paradigm, Alex Szalay, Johns Hopkins University.

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