Correlations and Research Results: Do They Match Up?
Andy Oram, an editor specializing in open source, software engineering, and health IT, attended the Petrie-Flom Center's 2016 annual conference, "Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics," on May 6, 2016. From his multi-part review of the discussion of big data, correlation, and research results at the event:
Eight years ago, a widely discussed issue of WIRED Magazine proclaimed cockily that current methods of scientific inquiry, dating back to Galileo, were becoming obsolete in the age of big data. Running controlled experiments on limited samples just have too many limitations and take too long. Instead, we will take any data we have conveniently at hand–purchasing habits for consumers, cell phone records for everybody, Internet-of-Things data generated in the natural world–and run statistical methods over them to find correlations.
Correlations were spotlighted at the annual conference of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Although the speakers expressed a healthy respect for big data techniques, they pinpointed their limitations and affirmed the need for human intelligence in choosing what to research, as well as how to use the results.
This is a two-part article. Read the first post and link to the second here!bioethics health information technology health law policy human subjects research research