Damn right I am an academic

Rachel Saunders
4 min readFeb 21, 2024
Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holding-chess-piece-277124/

So you want to throw random statistics at me on social media expecting me to simply take you at your word. Okay. Back it up with the actual data set, research, and methods used to collate it. You know, basic data science 101. Oh, you cannot because you read it off a meme which you screen grabbed on a drive hustle and now have no idea where you sourced it from. Right, okay. You mean to say that you have no idea about what you are actually talking about and attack anyone who calls you out on your garbage. Just because you have a gut feeling and want to weaponise those feels does not make your point valid, worthy, or means I must pay attention to what you are saying. Yes, you can throw my job back in my face, but it does not make you right.

Its almost as if social media was invented to rile up those who actually work with data and understand the complexities of how to use it in a matter than is both ethical and objective. No data is ever neutral, indeed there are a whole range of assumptions that go into even starting a research project to begin with. The fact that data gets collated in the first place is always based on a range of assumptions, willingness of participants to handover their information, and choices made in the categories chosen to collect. All of this proceeds the actual analysing of the data, sharing of that data, and headline tweets that data is condensed down to for people to care about the output from the research. So yes, go right ahead, read the headline, read the abstract, and then prepared to get crucified by anyone who actually bothers to read the actual research and analyse the data you misrepresent.

I am a data sceptic precisely because of all the methodological flaws in every. Single. Dataset. No data is perfect, and every time you engage with it you need to have your sceptic’s hat on ensuring you are not getting suckered into a narrative that distorts and misunderstands the data. One of the benefits of being an undergraduate degree, Masters, and PhD is that at each stage you peel back the realities of data to the point where it all becomes a matter of shades of subjectivity. Throw all the accusations of ivory towers you like, but the reality is that data, statistics, and research is used and abused by politicians, hacks, corporations, and the media on an hourly basis to misinform and misrepresent. If only there were a group…