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Data Science and Scientific Discovery: New Approaches to Nature’s Complexity

For our May Meetup, we're very pleased to have Dr. John Rumble from R&R Data Services share his views of how Data Science and Scientific Data interact. Among many other professional accomplishments, he co-founded the CODATA Data Science Journal, and during his many years at NIST, he led the development of standards for representation and management of scientific data. Dr. Rumble talk is entitled Data Science and Scientific Discovery: New Approaches to Nature’s Complexity.

  • 6:30pm -- Networking and Refreshments
  • 7:00pm -- Introduction
  • 7:10pm -- Dr. Rumble's presentation and Q&A
  • around 8:30pm -- Adjourn for Data Drinks


As we approach an era in which virtually all scientific and technical (S&T) data are generated, collected, managed, accessed, and exploited digitally, we can ask how emerging Data Science technology and tools will impact science and scientific discovery. The federal government and many individual scientific disciplines are bringing new focus to S&T data with new initiatives called “Big Data” and “The Fourth Paradigm.” To appreciate the challenges and opportunities, it is critical to understand the complexity of nature and how that affects the application of Data Science techniques to S&T Big Data. In my talk I will discuss issues such as (1) independent variables and the growth of knowledge, (2), correlation and causation – they ain’t the same thing, (3) why 6 billion is not so big after all, and (4) data and scientific discovery. There are many emerging opportunities for Data Scientists to work with S&T Big Data, and you will be better prepared after listening to these stories.


Dr. John Rumble has combined his analytical and scientific skills with years of executive experience in a variety of government, industry, and non-profit organizations. Rumble was a pioneer in using computers and information technology in all aspects of scientific and technical (S&T) data. Working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), he expanded its Standard Reference Data Program into new areas including materials science, biotechnology, engineering, and other areas. He has also led several national and international non-profit groups and committees involved in S&T data work, including standards development and the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science, of which he was elected President in 1998.

Dr. Rumble received a B.A. in Chemistry from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Indiana University, Bloomington. He has received many honors for his work including having been named Fellow of six national and international scientific societies. In 2006, Rumble was awarded the CODATA Prize for his achievements. He has authored three books, written over 60 technical papers, and given more than 150 talks on five continents.

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  • Harlan H.

    Audio and slides from this presentation are now available on the Files page!

    June 2, 2012

  • David H.

    There were lots of questions that left me wanting a few more conclusions. The meetup could have gone deeper into the governance that prioritizes data warehousing on a societal level. On the positive side, Dr. Rumble's personality was both winsome and entertaining, and the food was great.

    May 24, 2012

  • Doug_S

    Good program, good crowd, nice venue, good location

    May 23, 2012

  • Sriram

    Was not as in-depth as I had expected...

    May 23, 2012

  • Jerome Y.

    I would have liked to see some concrete examples of data science being responsible for a scientific breakthrough, but realize that we may not be there yet. Failing that, I found the talk to be a good introduction to the opportunities open to data scientists in the natural sciences broadly defined.

    May 23, 2012

  • Chuck C.

    Great presentation, great group, great empanadas!

    May 23, 2012

  • Emma

    An inspiring presentation.

    May 23, 2012

  • Greg B.

    It was a useful seminar to attend.

    May 23, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    very entertaining.

    May 23, 2012

  • lee de c.

    a few years ago i tried to engage Rita Colwell (then of NSF) about the appropriateness of the term 'biocomplexity;' it turned out NSF probably really meant bio-complicatedness. perhaps we fractologists have lost control of the word...

    May 19, 2012

  • John R.

    By complexity, I mean nature is complex - there are many substances, species, atoms, molecules, genes, etc. and it takes complex information to describe them. I'll be talking about the challenges this complexity poses, rather than specific tools to address those challenges. People often underestimate the difficulty of these challenges, and I'll try to explain why as well as the consequences of underestimating them.

    May 18, 2012

  • lee de c.

    by 'complexity' do you mean chaos, fractals, nonlinearity...?

    May 18, 2012

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