Magazine article American Scientist

From the President

Magazine article American Scientist

From the President

Article excerpt

You're Invited to the Annual Meeting's Big Data Symposia

"Big Data and the Future of Research" is the topic of the 2018 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference this October in Silicon Valley, the global center for technology, venture capital, innovation, and social media. Big data has enabled major advances in science, as illustrated by many of the articles in this special issue of American Scientist. On October 26, symposia will start with a keynote talk by Steve Ritz, who is building the 3.2-gigapixel camera for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Jeff Dean, head of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Google, will deliver the J°el Primacl< other keynote talk about using big data to solve many of humanity's most challenging problems.

Big data is changing the nature of scientific research. Digital representations of large scientific data sets permit the identification of subtle patterns. Finding correlations that predict customer selections can be economically valuable even if the underlying causes are obscure. But such correlations are not enough for science; correlations do not prove causation. Understanding casual connections is essential-although the use of umbrellas correlates with rain, it does not follow that banning umbrellas will reduce the amount of rain. Some claim that correlations are scientifically valuable in themselves, but the choices of what data to collect and how to analyze it inevitably affect the implications that can be drawn. …

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