Data Alone Isn’t Ground Truth

Posted by Divya Susarla on 9/13/17

This blog post was originally posted on Medium by Angela Bassa

I saw a chart the other day that highlighted the importance of bringing skepticism to any data analyses and visualizations we encounter. This post isn’t a dissertation, and it necessarily does not address the topic fully. But I think there are some good point I can make on the topic, and if it sparks a good conversation that I think it’s served a good purpose.

Here’s the chart that started me down this path:

 

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The chart shows what appears to be an inverse relationship between average IQ estimates by college major and the proportion of women in said major’s undergraduate student population.

There is no implied interpretation in this chart, it merely shows a relationship. Still, were one to draw conclusions and make decisions based on it without scrutinizing it, those decisions would likely be deeply unfair. This thought made me feel the need (for what feels like the millionth time) to beat on my “data is not ground truth” drum set.

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