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Rise of The Citizen Scientist?

Authored by Comprehension 360,

Somewhere in 2017 the idea of a Citizen Data Scientist (CDS) began to gain a little traction. Credit for this seems to rest with Gartner. The CDS was really just the offspring of the Citizen Scientist concept that some tried to popularize in 2011. The idea being — technology has become so advanced that just about anyone can now collect and analyze data.

In the face of the growing data divide, this is the solution that many of the largest brain trusts have staked their hopes on. If you are not familiar with the data divide, it is the realization that the growth in digital information has created ever increasing demand for data science and analytic professionals. Unfortunately, little is being done to educate them. So the gap between supply and demand is growing.

To fill this gap, Gartner has predicted the rise of the citizen data scientist. Feel free to Google it. What is interesting — beyond predicting that a coming storm of untrained but technology armed average Joe business folks is coming to collect and analyze the world’s data — is that publications like Forbes and organizations like Capterra boldly predict they will preform predictive analytics!

I’m sorry but that is like Nike claiming that their Air Jordans could make every neighborhood kid the next Scottie Pippen. In this analogy, Forbes would have needed to say prescriptive analytics for me to use Michael.

I am a fan of analogies, so let me offer a few more. Because of all the power tools now readily available at Lowes and Home Depot, the world is full of Citizen Master Carpenters. WebMD has generated an army of citizen heart surgeons. And of course, thanks to eTrade and TDAmeritrade everyone has quit their job to become a millionaire day trader.

TDWI gives Gartner an earlier start on the CDS concept. But, their illustration and article hardly paint the picture of an everyday Joe (or Joanne). By the time they are done spelling out the qualifications, one struggles with understanding how anything is different at all?! But then, that lends them some credibility. While adopting the CDS concept is misleading, at least the article recognizes the true heart of the matter.

True science is discipline. No amount of technology will ever replace that.

Some of you will want to argue that point. Among that group, some of you sell analytic software for a living or just convinced your board to invest $5 million in some new technology. The rest of you are naive optimists who know just enough to be dangerous. I guess that makes you Citizen Data Scientists. Congratulations… I think.

Image result for logical fallacies and cognitive biases

If you haven’t closed the laptop or window, let me explain. Better yet, let me illustrate with this lovely codex of cognitive bias. I know it is hard to read, but then that is because there are a nearly infinite number of ways to interpret data — POORLY!

After cognitive bias, you should consider researching logical fallacy. After that, consider reading a little Popper. Or maybe you can sink your teeth into the Simpson Paradox. All of this assumes your data was any good in the first place, since most of you yawned your way through SQL and jumped straight into Keras and TensorFlow… it won’t be.

Excuse me — this was not on my Khan Academy video. Will this MOOC include that in the certification test?

The democratization of data does not directly lead to the democratization of insight. eBay did not make everyone an overnight retail giant. Cell phones aren’t increasing people’s IQ. And despite more health and diet technology than ever before… the world is fatter than ever. Tools speed, tools scale, used right — they even enable. BUT — THEY NEVER REPLACE THE NEED FOR REAL DISCIPLINE. Yes, I went all caps and bold… in a sentence fragment. I needed your attention. It is just that important!

So sure. Rise up oh Citizen Data Scientists! Now sit back down and learn something meaningful. Something real. Something built and validated by the wisdom of two and half millennia. Technology allows all of us to aspire but only those who invest the time and effort, who build the discipline and education, will be able to rise to the level of providing meaningful and predictive analytics. Everyone else is just dreaming.

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