Data is useless without us

 62 153893226 C18E14A7A3 by NightRPStar
In science, data is nothing without purpose:
[Via business|bytes|genes|molecules]

In an article on TechFlash, a VC, talking about trends in 2010, had this to say while talking about increased IT needs in cleantech and biotech

Both areas are generating terabytes of data and it is no longer just about science — it is about digesting mountains of data.

For some reason that statement scared me. Digesting mountains of data is all about the science. If we forget that, we are in big trouble. Yes, from a pure technology perspective it is about digesting mountains of data, but (a) that has to be looked at in the context of science (sense-making?), and (b) the digesting is a necessary pre-requisite to getting to the science. You really don’t have much of a choice, but if you forget about the science, you will end up with noise, a whole lot of it.

My advice to all the VCs out there is simple. Yes, life science is increasingly data intensive, and to make any sense of that data, you need to look at computing as a core aspect, but never lose sight of the fact that collecting all that data has a purpose, understand our molecular machinery and figuring out how we work, and what makes us stop working properly. If we forget that, a lot of money is going to get wasted.


Data just exists. Human interaction with data provides context, transforming the data into information.

Concentrating on the data does us no good at all. Finding better ways to store it might be useful but without putting a lot of work into being able to extract the data for human purposes, it is useless.

We need better ways for humans everywhere to interact with the data so that we can deal with the inherent information created.

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