Data scientists
A new faction of the transnational field of statistics
in Ethnography for a data-saturated world
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Big data and related methods, typically the purview of data science and data scientists, introduce new possibilities for the generation of official statistics and knowledge of the state. The chapter considers what this means for the future position and authority of national statisticians. Drawing on a collaborative ethnography of European national and international statistical institutes, we examine this as a politics of method where national statisticians position themselves in relation to data scientists to establish their legitimate authority. We suggest that both professional groups are being relationally reconfigured through not only debate, but transnational material-semiotic practices such as experiments, demonstrations and job descriptions. Through the proposed figure of the ‘iStatistician’, we suggest that these practices serve to differentiate national statisticians from data scientists by reinforcing established values and norms for the legitimate production of official statistics.

Editors: Hannah Knox and Dawn Nafus

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