Video Club: Sackler Colloquium “Drawing Causal Inference from Big Data”

On Wednesdays 12:30-13:30 we will jointly watch some of the video recordings of presentations given at the recent Sackler Colloquium Drawing Causal Inference from Big Data of the National Academy of Sciences. (Lunch is not included – bring it yourself!)

Schedule: at the bottom of the Meetings page

Abstract: This colloquium was motivated by the exponentially growing amount of information collected about complex systems, colloquially referred to as “Big Data”. It was aimed at methods to draw causal inference from these large data sets, most of which are not derived from carefully controlled experiments. Although correlations among observations are vast in number and often easy to obtain, causality is much harder to assess and establish, partly because causality is a vague and poorly specified construct for complex systems. Speakers discussed both the conceptual framework required to establish causal inference and designs and computational methods that can allow causality to be inferred. The program illustrates state-of-the-art methods with approaches derived from such fields as statistics, graph theory, machine learning, philosophy, and computer science, and the talks will cover such domains as social networks, medicine, health, economics, business, internet data and usage, search engines, and genetics. The presentations also addressed the possibility of testing causality in large data settings, and will raise certain basic questions: Will access to massive data be a key to understanding the fundamental questions of basic and applied science? Or does the vast increase in data confound analysis, produce computational bottlenecks, and decrease the ability to draw valid causal inferences?