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Detective Columbo the Data Scientist?

Is data sensemaker a more accurate job title?

Derek Munro 2 minute read Data quality

I really don’t like the new job title of “Data Scientist”.
It sounds technical and I expect it to make business people more wary and suspicious of IT.

The famous TV detective Columbo gathered all the evidence from everywhere he could, became familiar with the overall situation and exchanged information by chatting to everyone. He then combined rigorous analysis of detail with lateral thinking and “following hunches” to arrive at unexpected conclusions.
If Columbo had been introduced as a “homicide scientist” rather than just another police officer I bet the criminals would have been more wary!

I’d vote to exchange “Data Scientist” for the slightly medieval sounding “data sensemaker”, which I spotted on a blog by Stephen Few .
If we can’t change it let’s at least de-mystify it as much as possible.

I’d summarise “Data Science” as “good Data Analysis” with emphasis on it being:

  • Enterprise-wide :- In the past, technology has been a barrier to this due to costs, complexity and time
  • Collaborative :- this should be a business-driven activity, accessible to communicative, analytical people, not just PhD statisticians.
  • Proactive :- not just answering specific questions but rummaging around in the detail and follow hunches to uncover unexpected “nuggets”

I like good analysis, I just don’t want to call it Data Science.