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2017 August 2017 News

Big data needs the human touch

While studying summer camps offered by Trinity River Audubon Center, Maguire Center Public Service Fellow Megan Brown, a Ph.D. student in anthropology, pondered the impact of big data on her field, concluding “a deeper understanding of human stories is what gives these numbers any meaning at all.”

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Megan Brown, a Ph.D. student in anthropology, was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2017 from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. She is spending the summer studying environmental advocacy with the Trinity River Audubon Center. She wrote about her experience for SMU Adventures:

[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container][fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=”” admin_label=”Content”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” hover_type=”none” link=”” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text]Last week before camp started I was speaking with the grandfather of one of our campers about my research and the Ph.D. program I am in. He told me that my analytic skills would be valuable when I finished because data analysts and statisticians are in high demand right now.

He wasn’t wrong. We live in the era of “big data”, a phrase which refers to the use of extremely large-scale datasets – so large that they must be analyzed with computers. Indeed, advances in computing technology, along with an increased availability of a multiplicity of data points, are a significant factor in the rise of big data. These days, those with statistical and analytic skills are prized for their ability to mine through vast quantities of data and draw meaningful, robust conclusions from it. These insights guide the decisions and tactics of corporations and governments, and provide important information about consumers, citizens, and other group members.

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