Scientist vs. Analyst – What is the Difference?

It’s has been some time since my last opinionitis post – I try to limit these as much as possible to avoid muddying the blog with lyrical content. Since I’m working in business analysis and have background in science, people often ask me how does science compare with analysis. Or maybe, it’s not them asking me (so much) as me wanting to drill it into them.

So, in a nutshell, I say something like ‘scientists go outside in, while analysts go inside out’. What do I mean by this?

Fundamentally, a scientist  doesn’t know how the phenomenon under investigation is supposed to work. If I am looking at the aircraft performance data as its speed approaches sound barrier (1940s example), I do not know what to expect – all my formulas and theoretical understanding are just that – my attempt at modeling the world. I do not have apriori principles of nature and hence I am looking at the data (going from the outside, the observables) to figure out how the phenomenon is structured (inside).

In business, knowledgeable people typically know apriori set of agreed-upon rules, and hence whatever the data we observe, is being interpreted using those rules. There is no ‘theory’ as such – there is a body of knowledge that is undisputed – these rules (inside) are used to figure out if the business is working as expected using collected data (outside), so we’re basically going inside out (from theory, using corollaries, to observations captured in data).

I suppose scientists and analysts are two faces of the same coin. Suppose I am a scientist with a hypothesis – to verify it, I am turning into an analyst (temporarily) because I am interpreting the data for consistency with the corollaries of the hypothesis (deductive step). Similarly, if I am a business analyst, I can temporarily turn into a scientist by going on ‘fishing expeditions’ and approaching the data as if completely unfamiliar with the rules of the business (inductive step). But you get the idea.

Simple? Helpful? I don’t think so. But thanks for reading (and thank g-d, these are rare).

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~ by Monsi.Terdex on June 1, 2014.

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