Use of the term "data science" is increasingly common, as is "big data." But what does it mean? Is there something unique about it? What skills do "data scientists" need to be productive in a world deluged by data? What are the implications for scientific inquiry? Here, I address these questions from the perspective of predictive modeling.
The term "science" implies knowledge gained through systematic study. In one definition, it is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions.11 Data science might therefore imply a focus involving data and, by extension, statistics, or the systematic study of the organization, properties, and analysis of data and its role in inference, including our confidence in the inference. Why then do we need a new term like data science when we have had statistics for centuries? The fact that we now have huge amounts of data should not in and of itself justify the need for a new term.
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