The idea of a fourth paradigm based on data-intensive scientific research has been credited to Jim
Gray, an influential software pioneer and Microsoft
Corp. researcher. 14 Gray argued that prior beliefs
weren’t necessary and that results were fully and
solely driven by what was found in the collected
data. Our interviews with managers of science- and
technology-based companies, however, made the
case that research should not be solely data-driven.
Rather than it being a fourth paradigm, we think of
data-intensive methods as supplemental to existing
methods — a way to expand dimensionality, discover potentially new relationships, and refine
theory. Clearly, data-intensive methods are important complements to experimentation, theoretical
models, computer modeling, and simulation because they take us into a realm beyond what such
methods are capable of today. Researchers just need
to be careful about how they use them.
Sen Chai is an assistant professor of management at
ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pontoise, France.
Willy Shih is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of
Management Practice in Business Administration at
Harvard Business School in Boston. Comment on
this article at http://sloanreview.mit.edu/x/58227, or
contact the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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i. Hey, Tansley, and Tolle, “The Fourth Paradigm.”
Reprint 58227. For ordering information, see page 4.
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We think of data-intensive methods as supplemental
to existing methods — a way to expand dimensionality,
discover potentially new relationships, and refine theory.