Data Science on the Ground: Hype, Criticism, and Everyday Work
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Modern organizations often employ data scientists to improve business processes using diverse sets of data. Researchers and practitioners have both touted the benefits and warned of the drawbacks associated with data science and big data approaches, but few studies investigate how data science is carried out “on the ground.” In this paper, we first review the hype and criticisms surrounding data science and big data approaches. We then present the findings of semistructured interviews with 18 data analysts from various industries and organizational roles. Using qualitative coding techniques, we evaluated these interviews in light of the hype and criticisms surrounding data science in the popular discourse. We found that although the data analysts we interviewed were sensitive to both the allure and the potential pitfalls of data science, their motivations and evaluations of their work were more nuanced. We conclude by reflecting on the relationship between data analysts' work and the discourses around data science and big data, suggesting how future research can better account for the everyday practices of this profession.