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Data Science: Challenges and Directions

Data Science, illustration

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While data science has emerged as an ambitious new scientific field, related debates and discussions have sought to address why science in general needs data science and what even makes data science a science. However, few such discussions concern the intrinsic complexities and intelligence in data science problems and the gaps in and opportunities for data science research. Following a comprehensive literature review,5,6,10,11,12,15,18 I offer a number of observations concerning big data and the data science debate. For example, discussion has covered not only data-related disciplines and domains like statistics, computing, and informatics but traditionally less data-related fields and areas like social science and business management as well. Data science has thus emerged as a new inter- and cross-disciplinary field. Although many publications are available, most (likely over 95%) concern existing concepts and topics in statistics, data mining, machine learning, and broad data analytics. This limited view demonstrates how data science has emerged from existing core disciplines, particularly statistics, computing, and informatics. The abuse, misuse, and overuse of the term "data science" is ubiquitous, contributing to the hype, and myths and pitfalls are common.4 While specific challenges have been covered,13,16 few scholars have addressed the low-level complexities and problematic nature of data science or contributed deep insight about the intrinsic challenges, directions, and opportunities of data science as an emerging field.

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Key Insights


Data science promises new opportunities for scientific research, addressing, say, "What can I do now but could not do before, as when processing large-scale data?"; "What did I do before that does not work now, as in methods that view data objects as independent and identically distributed variables (IID)?"; "What problems not solved well previously are becoming even more complex, as when quantifying complex behavioral data?"; and "What could I not do better before, as in deep analytics and learning?"


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