What is Data Science?

Data seem to have become some of the most precious things on which our society relies. We use data, we manipulate data, we sell data, we buy data. Data is interchangeably material, product and currency, and depending on where you sit, can be an asset, a liability or a even a threat. We live at a time when entire companies are created, ran and sold only for the purpose of collecting data – even if in many cases, they do not advertise themselves as doing so.

We are researchers and scientists. We study, investigate and attempt to understand the world around us. Our goal is literally to figure out what’s going on, and try in the process to contribute. Data science was born out of a rapid switch from the issues of collecting sufficient data for our studies, to having to find ways to cope with the amounts of data we have available; to extract something meaningful out of them.

We are also technologists. We build tools – digital tools – to help making some tasks easier. We create systems that can manipulate data, integrate them, federate them, analyse them, visualise them. We research the interaction between people and data, to find ways to make it more effective and more valuable.

But data science most go beyond that. It must not restrict itself to considering data as the base material to be manipulated, or from which value should be extracted. This explosion in the availability of data shows us that data have now to be considered a fundamental element of life in modern society. It is a part of the world – the one we want to study, investigate and attempt to understand.

Data Science is the study of the fundamental characteristics of data, by analysing the artefacts through which they are materialised and the processes through which they exist. 

That is the basis on which the Data Science Group is formed. Many of our projects have concrete, practical goals in domains such as Smart Cities, the Internet of Things, or the Humanities. The objective however is to build on knowledge engineering, semantic web, data analytics, sense-making, privacy management and interaction to push further this study of data – to achieve a greater understanding of this increasingly important part of our life.