Wednesday, March 27, 2013

1000 scientists determine genes linked to common cancers

A rather neat and important example of the shift towards big science driven by data has been reported in this Guardian article. It explains how a recent large-scale study in the UK has linked faults in the DNA from thousands of individuals to an increased likelihood of developing prostrate, breast, and ovarian cancers, which are some of the most prevalent and dangerous forms of cancer.

I suspect that the most important problems that mankind faces will be most effectively solved in this manner, combining the efforts of many individuals of differing expertise to mine large banks of data for meaningful correlations.

I also wonder if the Information Age will lead to new advances in how data is collected or generated. Most of what I read about data-centric science assumes that the data we need to solve a problem is already available somewhere in some database connected to the net. But the fundamental hypothesis of science is that our models must match observations, so making a number of observations, in my mind, should come before anything else.

I expect that how we perform our observations and measurements will change as the Information Age matures, not just how we process our data.