A recent post by mathbabe about the desirable traits of data scientists has met with a lot of backlash in the community. In the comments section of her blog, on my Facebook page, and in my Twitter DMs, I’m seeing notes from data scientists that tell me that corporate America doesn’t like data when it disagrees with corporate desires.
I’ve worked in corporate America and academia, and one thing is inevitably true: every decision is political. Many of the people that work with data seem to believe that their analysis is objective and this should shield them from politics. They need an injection of reality. First, because all data is situated and subjective. Second, because the use of that data is always situated. These are attributes of political problems, and scientists should not be surprised that when there is a fight over scarce resources there will be politics.
Let me add another list item to the list of attributes that mathbabe finds useful for data scientists: a good data scientist is politically aware. They know which stakeholders have an interest and their motivations. And, instead of tanking programs, they do everything they can to find a way to make them successful instead.