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February 01, 2012

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The "data scientist" meme, it's seemed to me from its inception, is a re-invention of operations research. Why? I suppose for the same reason coder-types re-invent lots of terms: so they can lay claim to expertise in some field for which they really have none, by co-opting.

This practice goes back, at least, to Dr. Deming. While well intentioned, he set in motion the idea that, as Mrs. Peel, a talented amateur was all that is required in a highly technical field. And, as far as that goes, real mathematicians more often than not view statisticians (even math stats) as marginally talented amateurs.

I certainly agree that the idea of statisticians having domain expertise is not new! If you look back to the work of William Gosset a century ago, you will see that domain expertise - in farming and brewing - was the driver of his work, work that underlies most everything statisticians and data miners do today.

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