The relativity of raw data

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Data scientists often say that they want access to the ‘raw data’ – but what does that term mean?

An important characteristics of raw data [is that it] is relative to your reference frame.

The raw data is raw to you if you have done no processing, manipulation, coding, or analysis of the data. In other words, the file you received from the person before you is untouched. But it may not be the rawest version of the data. The person who gave you the raw data may have done some computations. They have a different “raw data set”.

The implication for reproducibility and replicability is that we need a “chain of custody” just like with evidence collected by the police. As long as each person keeps a copy and record of the “raw data” to them you can trace the provencance of the data back to the original source.

(via Simply Statistics)

If you’re interested in how to maintain this “chain of custody”, check out Recipy, an “effortless method to record provenance in Python”. You simply add a single line of code to your Python code, and Recipy will keep track of how exactly your output files were created.

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