Curiosity-Driven, Not Data-Driven

[Sept] 11, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Beth Kanter raises the question of data-driven decision making in the non-profit sector. Of course, most of us in the public sector in one place or another have had to deal with someone touting data-driven decision making as the only way to move forward. There's a good conversation on G+. Eric Petersen, she writes, prefers the term data-informed. And Kanter herself prefers "curiosity-driven". In a comment, I point out the well-known and oft-repeated fact that all data is theory-laden. The use of data to inform decision-making, therefore, is just another way to use theory to inform decision-making, albeit a less obvious and surreptitious way. I'm not thrilled by the expression "curiosity-driven" because it suggests irrelevance. I think there's a wide set of bases on which to ground decisions, and that it would be a mistake to abstract the process of decision-making from the context in which it occurs.
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