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Big Data & Analytics Heroes: Sean Patrick Murphy

February 18, 2014

Sean Murphy, senior scientist, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, is this week's Big Data & Analytics Hero. This recognition program was created by IBM to acknowledge and highlight big data and analytics industry thought leaders.

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How have big data and analytics impacted how you do your job today?

While big data does often happen to be large in size (although this is always relative to the available tool set), I believe that big actually means important. Scientists have long known that data could create new knowledge via the application of the scientific method, but now the rest of the world, including government and management, has realized that data can create many types of value: principally financial, but also environmental and social. And, if data is valuable, more data is more valuable. Who doesn’t want big (large) value? This revolution is occurring while the consensus belief that "data is valuable" permeates all aspects of society, and this means that incredible new opportunities and projects are erupting across fields and sectors.

How are big data and analytics changing your business strategy?

What I have seen across numerous industry sectors, and even government and academia, is that most decisions are made by opinions that are polluted with personal biases and low information. As more data comes online and our understanding of how to use data improves, HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) will become extinct as a means of decision making; those organizations that can’t let go of this archaic practice will simply be overtaken by those that can or are too young to have allowed such a culture to arise.

How can big data combined with analytics improve the world we live in in 5 to 10 years?

The better question is "how can the world not use data?"

To paraphrase a wise man, to improve anything, one must first be able to measure it. Thus, data is the cornerstone to improving the world we live in, and I think that most would agree that some improvements are in order. We are at the most nascent phase of transforming our world for the better.


View all of our Big Data & Analytics Heroes here on the Hub, and look out for next week's Hero: Alan Grogan, chief analytics officer at Royal Bank of Scotland.

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