Why are data scientists so bad at science?

Do you check your inputs?

It’s rare that I am intentionally provocative in my post titles, but I’d really like you to think about this one. I’ve known and worked with a lot of people who work with data over the years, many of who call themselves data scientists and many who do the role of a data scientist but by another name1. One thing that worries me when they talk about their work is an absence of scientific rigour and this is a huge problem, and one I’ve talked about before.

The results that data scientists produce are becoming increasingly important in our lives; from determining what adverts we see to how we are treated by financial institutions or governments. These results can have direct impact on people’s lives and we have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that they are correct. Continue reading Why are data scientists so bad at science?

Professional body for data science? Yes Please

Statistically significant
My new prized badge from the RSS

This week I was delighted to be at the Royal Statistical Society as a business representative for the launch of their Data Science Section. At over 160 years old, the RSS is one of the more established professional bodies and I like that it is questioning and making a difference as the application of their industry changes and when faced with an increasing challenge of abuse of statistical methods. I wish the general public had a greater understanding of statistics so they wouldn’t be so easily swayed by the media with a simple graph “proving” a point. Continue reading Professional body for data science? Yes Please

MST210 – Exam and modelling exercise reflections

Revision day essentials – revising in 1 day is not recommended

This week was the exam for my level 2 OU module MST210 on methods, models and modelling.  This was a compulsory module, but had it not been I would have never chosen it.  The module has been mostly applied maths, which has been really interesting, but what’s been a problem for me has been the mandatory team work modelling exercise, which makes up 16% of the continuous assessment.  So much so, that I lost motivation to do the final TMA or revise for the exam as much as I wanted to.  I thought it would be worth a short reflection on why I disliked this aspect so much (especially as it led to a repeat of last year when it came to revision…). Continue reading MST210 – Exam and modelling exercise reflections

Smart watch insights – now I can’t do without it

Watch, fitness, weather, smart home control all in one

A couple of weeks ago I got an iWatch.  I’d had a Nike fuel band before and am no stranger to wearable tech, but I’ve never really worn a watch.  I’ve been surrounded by things that tell us the time since I was a child so I’ve got used to not wearing anything on my wrist1  However, when my other half decided not to wear his, I thought I’d give it a go before we sold it. Continue reading Smart watch insights – now I can’t do without it

Evidence in our AI future

Generated handwriting from the team at UCL

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that there have been great advances in the past few years with artificial image generation, to the stage where having a picture of something does not necessarily mean that it is real.  Image advances are easy to talk about, as there’s something tangible to show, but there have been similar large leaps forward in other areas, particularly in voice synthesis and handwriting.

Continue reading Evidence in our AI future

Artifical image creation takes another step forward in advertising

Dove's "perfect mum" image generated by AI
Is there the perfect mum? Dove’s Aimee is AI’s created image  based on what the media think she should be (c) Dove

Earlier this month, Dove launched their new baby range with another of their fantastic adverts challenging stereotypes and questioning is there a “perfect mum”.  As a mum myself I can relate to the many hilarious bloggers1 who are refreshingly honest about the unbrushed hair, lack of make-up, generally being covered in whatever substances your new tiny human decides to produce, and all other parenting frustrations.  I’m really pleased that there are lots of women2 out there challenging the myths presented in the media – we don’t all have a team to make us beautiful, nor someone photo-shopping the results to perfection, and the pressure can be immense.  This is where Dove’s campaign is fantastic.  Rather than just creating a photoshoot with a model and doctoring the results, the image is actually completely artificial, having been generated by AI. Continue reading Artifical image creation takes another step forward in advertising

Submitting evidence to parliament committees

(c) Parliament committee on Science and Technology

I love the fact that here in the UK everyone can be involved in shaping the future of our country, even if a large number of individuals choose not to and, in my eyes, if you don’t get involved then you don’t have the right to complain.  While this is most generally applied to the election of our representatives from local parish councils to our regional MPs (or actually standing yourself)1 there are also a lot of other ways to be involved.  In addition to raising issues with your local representative, parliament has cross bench committees that seek input from the public and to help create policy or consider draft legislation.

Our elected parliament is not made up of individuals who are experts in all fields.  Even government departments are not necessarily headed by individuals with large amounts of relevant experience.  It is critical that these individuals are informed by those with the experience and expertise in the issues that  are being considered.  Without this critical input, our democracy is weakened. Continue reading Submitting evidence to parliament committees

Choosing a Laptop for Deep Learning Development

Confusion matrix
The matrix, well a matrix… A confusion matrix for a 60 class network running on the Dell XPS laptop

If you’re starting out in deep learning and would prefer a laptop over a desktop, basic research will lead you to a whole host of blogs, Q&A sites and opinions that basically amount to “don’t do it” and to get a desktop or remote into a server instead.  However, if you want a laptop, whether this is for college, conferences or even because you have a job where you can work from anywhere, then there are plenty of options available to you.  Here I’ll lay out what I chose and why, along with how it’s performing. Continue reading Choosing a Laptop for Deep Learning Development

True Type Fonts in LaTeX: a brief guide

Adding new fonts to LaTeX doesn’t have to be painful…

One of the things I love about \LaTeX is how customisable it is.  Separating content from design a long time before web design cottoned on to this.  However, out of the box, \LaTeX comes with very limited fonts and most people just use these defaults, mainly because setting up other fonts isn’t as easy as it should be.

One of the great things about drawing diagrams in \LaTeX is that the fonts match, it’s always a little jarring to my eye when I see papers with a mismatch between diagrams and main text.  However, sometimes you just can’t control what’s in your diagram or you want something a little more modern than Times New Roman for whatever you’re putting together.

So how do you go about doing this?  Like most things, the answer is “it depends”… let’s start with an assumption that you’re starting from scratch and if you’re already a few steps down the process then that’s just less work for you to do 🙂 Continue reading True Type Fonts in LaTeX: a brief guide

Algorithmic transparency – is it even possible?

Could you explain to a lay person how this network makes decisions?

The Science and Technology Select Committee here in the UK have launched an inquiry into the use of algorithms in public and business decision making and are asking for written evidence on a number of topics.  One of these topics is best-practise in algorithmic decision making and one of the specific points they highlight is whether this can be done in a ‘transparent’ or ‘accountable’ way1.  If there was such transparency then the decisions made could be understood and challenged.

It’s an interesting idea.  On the surface, it seems reasonable that we should understand the decisions to verify and trust the algorithms, but the practicality of this is where the problem lies. Continue reading Algorithmic transparency – is it even possible?