Data Science: Scientific Discipline or Business Process?

No, of course not.

But lets say you are hired by BASF.

Or DuPont.

Or ExxonMobil.

They would then want you to use your chemistry knowledge in order to add value to their business.

They would be interested in extracting the relevant know-how you posses in order to enhance business processes.

The chemist sees value in chemistry; the business sees value in the chemist using their knowledge in the scientific discipline to quantitatively increase some measurable business metrics.

Similarly, the “value” for a data scientist is whatever insight can be gleaned from some specific data.

From a business perspective, the “value” which data science can provide is some quantitatively measurable business metric that is improved via this gleaned information.

Simply put, data science is an attempt to understand given data using the scientific method.

Thats why data science is a scientific discipline.

Plain and simple.

The fact that the word “science” is included in the term, while the word “business” is not, should be a dead giveaway.

You are free (and encouraged!) to apply data science to business use cases, just as you are encouraged to apply it to many other domains.

But this application does not permit the wholesale co-opting of data science as an exclusively business term.

And some of the biggest problems that we can find insights into using data science — weather prediction, climate change, earthquake prediction, to modestly name but a few — have nothing at all to do with business.

I understand the reaction of some to co-opt this term and claim it for the business world, given that many of data sciences most prominent practical applications can be found in the business world (recommender systems, customer segmentation, decision making).

But chemistry exists without the chemical processing industry, just as data science exists without business.

Data science grew out of academia and stretches back decades, pre-dating the 2012 Harvard Business Review “sexiest job of the 21st century” quote, as well as the coining of the term in the decade prior.

And while this scientific discipline will undoubtedly outlive its current business buzzword-iness, it will continue to drive business decisions for decades to come.

So heres where I stand: Data science is a scientific discipline which can be applied to business processes.

Feel free to disagree or express nuance below.

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