Scientists from every discipline have more data than ever, but it’s only as useful as the meaning behind it. Every bit of information is only explained by the context in which it was gathered, and often in the context in which it is used. “There is no such thing as raw data,” says Bill Anderson of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin and associate editor of the CODATA Data Science Journal.
Take the number 37, Anderson says. Other than stating a numerical order, it means little on its own. But with some more information — 37 degrees Celsius, for instance — it can take on more meaning. Now give it some context: 37 degrees C is normal body temperature. Now 37 represents something useful, something a doctor or researcher could use, and it becomes a piece of knowledge that could comfort a patient or answer a question.