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Liberating data - an interview with John Ioannidis

Couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to sit down with Prof. John Ioannidis to talk about the role of data in science. Prof. Ioannidis is well know in his pursuit to uncover and fix issues with the modern scientific process. This interview is the first in a series - stay tuned for more!

Chris Gorgolewski (CG): You have a long journey in science behind you, and I was wondering how you thought about the role of data in science when you were entering grad school?
John Ioannidis (JI): I think that my exposure to data has changed over time, because the types of datasets and their content, clarity, their limitations, their documentation, their availability, their transparency, and their prowess to error has changed over time. I think by now I have worked in different fields that have different doses of these challenges. The types of data that I was working with when I was a medical student or just graduating are very different compared to what we have now. Some of the challenges are actually…

The glass box design philosophy

There is an interesting paradox in context of developing data analysis software. On one side, there are clear benefits of designing tools that are easy to use, robust and require as little manual intervention or user expertise as possible. Such design philosophy allows more users to take advantage of the tools and apply them automatically to large heterogeneous datasets. On the other side, blindly applying tools that are not fully understood or do not provide useful information on whether the input data meets their assumptions can raise serious concerns. Developers take not only great pride in the quality of their software but also feel responsible for how the software is being used. Unexperienced users can misuse a “black box” tool and obtain misleading results. Whether we like it or not, such situations can lead to bad reputation misattributed to the tool itself.



Ease of use seems to be at odds with avoiding misuse. Extending your user base to less experienced users can lead to mist…