The Data Science Process

Neil D. Lawrence

AMLC Data Science Workshop Address


Neil D. Lawrence

Amazon Research Cambridge and University of Sheffield


Gartner Hype Cycle

Machine Learning

\[ \text{data} + \text{model} \rightarrow \text{prediction}\]

Machine Learning

  • Normal ML (& stats?) focus: model

  • In real world need more focus on: data

  • motivation for data science

Background: Big Data

  • The pervasiveness of data brings forward particular challenges.

  • Emerging themes: Devolving compute onto device.

  • Data preprocessing: Internet of Intelligence.

“Embodiment Factors”

compute ~10 gigaflops ~ 1000 teraflops?
communicate ~1 gigbit/s ~ 100 bit/s
10 ~ 1013

Evolved Relationship


  1. Paradoxes of the Data Society

  2. Quantifying the Value of Data

  3. Privacy, loss of control, marginalisation


  1. Paradoxes of the Data Society

  2. Quantifying the Value of Data

  3. Privacy, loss of control, marginalisation

  4. Machine Learning Systems Design

Breadth vs Depth Paradox

  • Able to quantify to a greater and greater degree the actions of individuals

  • But less able to characterize society

  • As we measure more, we understand less


  • Perhaps greater preponderance of data is making society itself more complex

  • Therefore traditional approaches to measurement are failing

  • Curate’s egg of a society: it is only ‘measured in parts’

Wood or Tree

  • Can either see a wood or a tree.


  • Election polls (UK 2015 elections, EU referendum, US 2016 elections)

  • Clinical trial and personalized medicine

  • Social media memes

  • Filter bubbles and echo chambers

The Maths

\[ \mathbf{Y} = \begin{bmatrix} y_{1, 1} & y_{1, 2} &\dots & y_{1,p}\\ y_{2, 1} & y_{2, 2} &\dots & y_{2,p}\\ \vdots & \vdots &\dots & \vdots\\ y_{n, 1} & y_{n, 2} &\dots & y_{n,p} \end{bmatrix} \in \Re^{n\times p} \]

The Maths

\[ \mathbf{Y} = \begin{bmatrix} \mathbf{y}^\top_{1, :} \\ \mathbf{y}^\top_{2, :} \\ \vdots \\ \mathbf{y}^\top_{n, :} \end{bmatrix} \in \Re^{n\times p} \]

The Maths

\[ \mathbf{Y} = \begin{bmatrix} \mathbf{y}_{:, 1} & \mathbf{y}_{:, 2} & \dots & \mathbf{y}_{:, p} \end{bmatrix} \in \Re^{n\times p} \]

The Maths

\[p(\mathbf{Y}|\boldsymbol{\theta}) = \prod_{i=1}^n p(\mathbf{y}_{i, :}|\boldsymbol{\theta})\]

The Maths

\[p(\mathbf{Y}|\boldsymbol{\theta}) = \prod_{i=1}^n p(\mathbf{y}_{i, :}|\boldsymbol{\theta})\]

\[\log p(\mathbf{Y}|\boldsymbol{\theta}) = \sum_{i=1}^n \log p(\mathbf{y}_{i, :}|\boldsymbol{\theta})\]


  • Typically \(\boldsymbol{\theta} \in \Re^{\mathcal{O}(p)}\)

  • Consistency reliant on large sample approximation of KL divergence

\[ \text{KL}(P(\mathbf{Y})|| p(\mathbf{Y}|\boldsymbol{\theta}))\]

  • Minimization is equivalent to maximization of likelihood.

  • A foundation stone of classical statistics.

Large \(p\)

  • For large \(p\) the parameters are badly determined.

  • Large \(p\) small \(n\) problem.

  • Easily dealt with through definition.

The Maths

\[p(\mathbf{Y}|\boldsymbol{\theta}) = \prod_{j=1}^p p(\mathbf{y}_{:, j}|\boldsymbol{\theta})\]

\[\log p(\mathbf{Y}|\boldsymbol{\theta}) = \sum_{j=1}^p \log p(\mathbf{y}_{:, j}|\boldsymbol{\theta})\]

Breadth vs Depth

  • Modern Measurement deals with depth (many subjects) … or breadth lots of detail about subject.

  • But what about
    • \(p\approx n\)?
    • Stratification of populations: batch effects etc.

Does \(p\) Even Exist?

  • Massively missing data.

  • Classical bias towards tables.

  • Streaming data.

Also need

  • More classical statistics!
    • Like the ‘paperless office’
  • A better characterization of human (see later)

  • Larger studies (100,000 genome)
    • Combined with complex models: algorithmic challenges

Quantifying the Value of Data

There’s a sea of data, but most of it is undrinkable

We require data-desalination before it can be consumed!

Data — Quotes from NIPS Workshop on ML for Healthcare

  • 90% of our time is spent on validation and integration (Leo Anthony Celi)
  • “The Dirty Work We Don’t Want to Think About” (Eric Xing)
  • “Voodoo to get it decompressed” (Francisco Giminez)
  • In health care clinicians collect the data and often control the direction of research through guardianship of data.

Quotes from Today

  • Getting money from management for data collection and annotation can be a total nightmare.


  • How do we measure value in the data economy?

  • How do we encourage data workers: curation and management

    • Incentivization for sharing and production.

    • Quantifying the value in the contribution of each actor.


Data Readiness Levels (see also arxiv)

  • Three Bands of Data Readiness:

  • Band C - accessibility

  • Band B - validity

  • Band A - usability

Accessibility: Band C

  • Hearsay data.
  • Availability, is it actually being recorded?
  • privacy or legal constraints on the accessibility of the recorded data, have ethical constraints been alleviated?
  • Format: log books, PDF …
  • limitations on access due to topology (e.g. it’s distributed across a number of devices)
  • At the end of Band C data is ready to be loaded into analysis software (R, SPSS, Matlab, Python, Mathematica)

Validity: Band B

  • faithfulness and representation
  • visualisations.
  • exploratory data analysis
  • noise characterisation.
  • Missing values.
  • Example, was a column or columns accidentally perturbed (e.g. through a sort operation that missed one or more columns)? Or was a gene name accidentally converted to a date?
  • At the end of Band B, ready to define a candidate question, the context, load into OpenML

Usability: Band A

  • The usability of data
  • Band A is about data in context.
  • Consider appropriateness of a given data set to answer a particular question or to be subject to a particular analysis.
  • At the end of Band A it’s ready for RAMP, Kaggle, define a task in OpenML.

Recursive Effects

  • Band A may also require

    • active collection of new data.

    • annotation of data by human experts (Enrica)

    • revisiting the collection (and running through the appropriate stages again)

Also …

  • Encourage greater interaction between application domains and data scientists

  • Encourage visualization of data

  • Incentivise the delivery of data.

  • Analogies: For SDEs describe data science as debugging.

See Also …

Internet of People

  • Fog computing: barrier between cloud and device blurring.

  • Stuxnet: Adversarial and Security implications for intelligent systems.

  • Complex feedback between algorithm and implementation

Deploying ML in Real World: Machine Learning Systems Design

  • Major new challenge for systems designers.

  • Internet of Intelligence but currently:

    • AI systems are currently fragile

Fragility of AI Systems

  • They are componentwise built from ML Capabilities.

  • Each capability is independently constructed and verified.

  • Pedestrian detection
  • Road line detection

  • Important for verification purposes.

Rapid Reimplementation

  • Whole systems are being deployed.

  • But they change their environment.

  • The experience evolved adversarial behaviour.

Machine Learning Systems Design

Turnaround And Update

  • There is a massive need for turn around and update

  • A redeploy of the entire system.
    • This involves changing the way we design and deploy.
  • Interface between security engineering and machine learning.


  • Data science offers a great deal of promise.
  • There are challenges and pitfalls
  • It is incumbent on us to avoid them

Many solutions rely on education and awareness

  • There are particular challenges around the Internet of Intelligence.