Quotations about   data

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In God we trust. All others must bring data.

W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) American management consultant, educator
(Misattributed)

Variants: "All others must have/provide data."

Frequently attributed to Deming, probably through Mary Walton, The Deming Management Method, ch. 20 (1986), though it is presented there without attribution: "'In God we trust. All others must bring data.' If there is a credo for statisticians, it is that."

The earliest appearance in print comes from Edwin R. Fisher, Effect of Smoking on Nonsmokers: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Tobacco of the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, Second Session (7 Sep 1978): "I should like to close by citing a well-recognized cliche in scientific circles. The cliche is, 'In God we trust, others must provide data.'"

For more discussion see here.
Added on 21-Jul-20 | Last updated 21-Jul-20
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The plural of anecdote is data.

Raymond Wolfinger (1931-2015) American political scientist and professor
Comment (c. 1969)
    (Source)

Notes:
  • In a 2004 email to Fred R. Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, Wolfinger wrote: "I said 'The plural of anecdote is data' some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford. The occasion was a student's dismissal of a simple factual statement -- by another student or me -- as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder. Since then I have missed few opportunities to quote myself."
  • The first print appearance is in Roger C. Noll, "The Game of Health Care Regulation," in Richard S. Gordon, ed., Issues in Health Care Regulation (1980): "Most of the evidence is anecdotal. Nevertheless, in the words of a leading political scientist, Raymond Wolfinger, the plural of anecdote is data ...."
Added on 13-Jul-20 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the other way around.

Eric S. Raymond (b. 1957) American software developer, writer [a.k.a. ESR]
The Cathedral and the Bazaar, ch. 2, Rule 9 (1999)
    (Source)
Added on 22-Jun-20 | Last updated 14-Jul-20
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Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition. In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
    (Source)
Added on 22-Jan-20 | Last updated 22-Jan-20
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Ever see a bird hurt itself by flying into a glass window? The bird is not stupid; he simply did not have all the data.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
The Puppet Masters (1951)
Added on 3-Nov-17 | Last updated 3-Nov-17
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When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
(Attributed)

Reply to a criticism of having changed his position on monetary policy. Quoted in Paul Samuelson, "The Keynes Centenary" The Economist, Vol. 287 (1983), but possibly apocryphal (see here).

Variants:
  • "When events change, I change my mind. What do you do?"
  • "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
  • "When someone persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?"
Added on 21-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Apr-20
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No fact in the world is instant, infinitesimal and ultimate, a single mark. There are, I hold, no atomic facts. In the language of science, every fact is a field — a crisscross of implications, those that lead to it and those that lead from it. We condense the laws around concepts. Science takes its coherence, its intellectual and imaginative strength together, from the concepts at which its laws cross, like knots in a mesh.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 3: “The Sense of Human Dignity”, §1 (1956)
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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If you torture the data long enough, Nature will confess.
Coase - torture the data - wist_info quote

Ronald Coase (1910-2013) British economist, academic, author
(Attributed)

Criticizing econometricians. Cited as early as 1977. Variants:
  • "If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything you'd like."
  • "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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My experience indicates that most managers receive much more data (if not information) than they can possibly absorb even if they spend all of their time trying to do so. Hence they already suffer from an information overload. They must spend a great deal of time separating the relevant documents. For example, I have found that I receive an average of 43 hours of unsolicited reading material each week. The solicited material is usually half again this amount. Most MIS designers “determine” what information is needed by asking managers what information they would like to have. This is based on the assumption that managers know what information they need and want.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“Management Misinformation Systems,” Management Sciences (Dec 1967)
Added on 5-Feb-15 | Last updated 5-Feb-15
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I do not deny that most managers lack a good deal of information that they should have, but I do deny that this is the most important informational deficiency from which they suffer. It seems to me that they suffer more from an overabundance of irrelevant information.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“Management Misinformation Systems,” Management Sciences (Dec 1967)
Added on 29-Jan-15 | Last updated 29-Jan-15
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