CS Chair Michael Franklin Discusses Meaning of Data Science on Podcast

June 06, 2018

Is data science a distinct new field at the cutting edge of research, or merely a new way of describing what researchers have always done? That's the central question in a new episode of Tech Radio, an Irish podcast that recently spoke to UChicago Department of Computer Science chair Michael J. Franklin and Stanford's Jeffrey D. Ullman. 

In the interview, Franklin argues that data science is both a new discipline and the child of multiple parents, including computer science, information science, and statistics -- just as computer science itself spawned from a combination of mathematics, electrical engineering, and linguistics.  He also describes important questions that the new field of data science will explore, including the lifecycle of research data, applications in science, medicine, and business, and the ethics and economics of data. Some of these topics will require new combinations of expertise in both technical and social sciences, Franklin said.

"Another important aspect of data science is to recognize from the very beginning that you don’t want to think about data as completely dispassionate, you don’t want to think about data as separated from the people and societies that collected it and are going to use it," Franklin says. "When you start thinking about ethical use of data, collection of data, and the protection of data in the future, these are all very human issues that we need to be thinking about. As we're building data science as a field, we need to make sure that the human component is front and center in what we're doing."

The podcast also gets the data science skeptic's perspective from Ullman, who argues that the field is a natural extension of questions the database systems community has long pondered. You can listen to the full episode on Soundcloud.