Introductory Data Science using R

Lecture 1: The Data Science Framework



  • Lecture 1: The data science framework
  • Lecture 2: Using R
  • Lecture 3: Data science with R
  • Lecture 4: Exploratory analysis of data

The scientific inquiry

data + model —> understand

  • Not new, arises in many fields
    • Natural sciences
    • Econometrics
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • etc.

Giuseppe Piazzi’s observations in the Monatliche Correspondenz, September 1801.

  • Design of experiments; randomised control trials.
  • Sir Ronald Fisher (1890–1962).

Data is now available by happenstance, and not just collected by design.

Big Data

The more we measure, the more we don’t understand

  • Breadth vs depth paradox; Big p Small n; The curse of dimensionality
  • “Data first” paradigm
  • Ethics; privacy

define: Data Science

The “concept to unify statistics, data analysis, machine learning and their related methods” in order to “understand and analyze actual phenomena” with data.

  • Multi-displinary field
  • Goal: extract knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data

Examples of Data Science problems

Real-world problems from the Alan Turing Institute

  • Real-time jammer detection, identification and localization in 3G and 4G networks
  • Automated matching of businesses to government contract opportunities
  • Using real-world data to advance air traffic control
  • Personalised lung cancer treatment modelling using electronic health records and genomics

Examples of Data Science problems

Real-world problems from the Alan Turing Institute

  • Identify potential drivers of engaging in extremism
  • News feed analysis to help understand global instability
  • Improved strength training using smart gym equipment data

Scope: Exploratory

  • Focus on transform and visualise
  • Modelling requires a specific skill set (Stats or ML)
  • GOAL: Generate many promising leads that you can later explore in more depth

Machine Learning vs Statistics

Statistics aims to turn humans into robots.

  • Concept of “statistical proof”
  • Often interest is inference

Machine learning aims to turn robots into humans.

  • Make sense of patterns from big data
  • Often interest is prediction

Data Quality and Readiness

There’s a sea of data, but most of it is undrinkable

Data neglect: data cleaning is tedious and complex

80-20 rule of Data Science

  • Most time is spent cleaning up data
  • Affectionally called data “wrangling”
  • [TBA] Data Readiness levels (Bands A, B and C)

Types of data

  1. Structured data
    • Data is in a nicely organised repository
    • E.g. Tables, matrices, etc.
  2. Unstructured data
    • Information does not have a predefined data model
    • E.g. images, colours, text, sound, etc.

Types of data

  1. Continuous data
    • Measurements are taken on a continuous scale e.g. height, weight, temperature, GDP, distance, etc.
    • Usually arises from physical experiments
  2. Discrete data
    • Measurements which can only take certain values e.g. sex, survey responses (Likert scales), occupation, ratings, ranks, etc.
    • Usually arises in social sciences

Types of data

TreatmentContinuous DataCategorical Data
Import classnumericfactor, ordinal
VisualiseHistograms, density plots, scatter plot, box & whisker plot, pie chartsBar plots,
Summarise5-point summariesFrequency tables

Exploratory Data Analysis

  1. Generate questions about your data.

  2. Search for answers by visualising, transforming, and modelling your data.

  3. Use what you learn to refine your questions and/or generate new questions.

More on this later…


$$y_i = \alpha + \beta x_i + \epsilon_i$$ $$\epsilon_i \sim \text{N}(0,\sigma^2)$$

  • EDA does not help in providing statistical proof, nor give predictions
  • To do this, engage in statistical or ML models
  • Many types of models, depending on what question you want answered

The R programming language

R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics

  • It is free and open source
  • Runs everywhere
  • Supports extensions
  • Engaging community
  • Links to other languages

ggplot2 in R

ggplot2 in R

ggplot2 in R data set


  • What exploratory analyses would you conduct on this data set?
  • What other data do you need to supplement your analyses?
  • What questions do you aim to answer?

End of Lecture 1


Supplementary material

Inference vs Prediction


Model interpretability

  • Model interpretability is necessary for inference
  • In a nutshell, a model is interpretable if we can “see” how the model generates its estimates
  • c.f. Blackboxes
  • Interpretable models often uses simplified assumptions

Model complexity

  • A complex model is often better at prediction tasks
  • “More parameters to tune”
  • However, model interpretability suffers

Bias-Variance tradeoff

$$ E[f(x) - \hat f (x)]^2 = \text{Bias}^2[\hat f(x)] + \text{Var}[\hat f(x)] + \sigma^2 $$

Linear regression

Economic freedom = 2.6 + 0.6 Trade

Neural networks


Survey Methodology

Source: Groves et al. (2009)

Three populations

Sampling design for BSA survey

  • Target: Adults aged 18 or over in GB
  • Survey: Private households south of the Caledonian Canal
  • Frame: Addresses in the Postcode address file

Multistage design:

  • Stratify by postcode sectors
  • Simple random sampling of addresses
  • Simple random sampling of individuals

From 60mil people, obtained 3,297 respondents in final sample.

See also

Data Readiness

  • Band C: Hearsday data. Is it really available? Has it actually been recorded? Format: PDF, log books, etc.
  • Band B: Ready for exploratory analysis, visualisations. Missing values, anomalies, …
  • Band A: Ready for ML/Stats models.