7 years, 5 months ago

From information architecture to evidence-based practice

@bengoldacre has produced a report for the UK Department for Education, suggesting some lessons that education can learn from medicine, and calling for a coherent “information architecture” that supports evidence based practice. Dr Goldacre notes that in the highest performing education systems, such as Singapore, “it is almost impossible to rise up the career ladder of teaching, without also doing some work on research in education.”

Here are some of his key recommendations. Clearly these recommendations would be relevant to many other corporate environments, especially those where there is strong demand for innovation, performance and value-for-money.

  • a simple infrastructure that supports evidence-based practice
  • teachers should be empowered to participate in research
  • the results of research should be disseminated more efficiently
  • resources on research should be available to teachers, enabling them to be critical and thoughtful consumers of evidence
  • barriers between teachers and researchers should be removed
  • teachers should be driving the research agenda, by identifying questions that need to be answered.

Clearly it is not enough merely to create an information architecture or knowledge infrastructure. The challenge is to make sure they are aligned with an inquiring culture.

to be continued …


Ben Goldacre, Teachers! What would evidence based practice look like? (Bad Science, March 2013)

7 years, 5 months ago

From information architecture to evidence-based practice

@bengoldacre has produced a report for the UK Department for Education, suggesting some lessons that education can learn from medicine, and calling for a coherent “information architecture” that supports evidence based practice. Dr Goldacre notes that in the highest performing education systems, such as Singapore, “it is almost impossible to rise up the career ladder of teaching, without also doing some work on research in education.”

Here are some of his key recommendations. Clearly these recommendations would be relevant to many other corporate environments, especially those where there is strong demand for innovation, performance and value-for-money.

  • a simple infrastructure that supports evidence-based practice
  • teachers should be empowered to participate in research
  • the results of research should be disseminated more efficiently
  • resources on research should be available to teachers, enabling them to be critical and thoughtful consumers of evidence
  • barriers between teachers and researchers should be removed
  • teachers should be driving the research agenda, by identifying questions that need to be answered.

Clearly it is not enough merely to create an information architecture or knowledge infrastructure. The challenge is to make sure they are aligned with an inquiring culture.

to be continued …


Ben Goldacre, Teachers! What would evidence based practice look like? (Bad Science, March 2013)

7 years, 6 months ago

Knowledge and Memory

Once upon a time, people thought of an information model as defining the structure of the stuff you want to remember. Nowadays, this definition is too restrictive: it might possibly be adequate for a system/database designer, but is not adequat…

7 years, 10 months ago

Co-Production of Data and Knowledge

Here’s an analogy for the so-called hierarchy of Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom DIKW).

  • Data = Flour
  • Information = Bread
  • Knowledge = A Recipe for Bread-and-Butter Pudding
  • Wisdom = Only Eating A Small Portion

Note that Information isn’t made solely from Data, Knowledge isn’t made solely from Information, and Wisdom isn’t made solely from Knowledge. See also my post on the Wisdom of the Tomato.


That’s enough analogies. Let me now explain what I think is wrong with this so-called hierarchy.

Firstly, the term “hierarchy” seems to imply that there are three similar relationships.

  • between Data and Information
  • between Information and Knowledge
  • and between Knowledge and Wisdom

 as well as implying some logical or chronological sequence

  • Data before Information
  • Information before Knowledge
  • Knowledge before Wisdom

and quantitative relationships

  • Much more data than information
  • Much more information than knowledge
  • Tiny amounts of wisdom

    But my objection to DIKW is not just that it isn’t a valid hierarchy or pyramid, but it isn’t even a valid schema. It encourages people to regard Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom as a fairly rigid classification scheme, and to enter into debates as to whether something counts as “information” or “knowledge”. For example, people often argue that something only counts as “knowledge” if it is in someone’s head. I regard these debates as unhelpful and unproductive.

    A number of writers attack the hierarchical DIKW schema, and propose alternative ways of configuring the four elements. For example, Dave Snowden says that “knowledge is the means by which we create information out of data”. Meanwhile Tom Graves suggests we regard DIKW not as ‘layers’, but as distinct dimensions in a concept-space.

    But I don’t see how any of these DIKW remixes escapes the most fundamental difficulty of DIKW, which is a naive epistemology that has been discredited since the Enlightenment. You don’t simply build knowledge out of data. Knowledge develops through Judgement (Kant), Circular Epistemology and Dialectic (Hegel), Assimilation and Accommodation (Piaget), Conjecture and Refutation (Popper), Proof and Refutation (Lakatos), Languaging and Orientation (Maturana), and/or Mind (Bateson).

    What all of these thinkers share is the rejection of the Aristotelian idea of “one-way traffic” from data to knowledge, and an insistance that data must be framed by knowledge. Thus we may validate knowledge by appealing to empirical evidence (data), but we only pick up data in the first place in accordance with our preconceptions and observation practices (knowledge). Among other things, this explains why organizations struggle to accommodate (and respond effectively to) weak signals, and why they persistently fail to “connect the dots”.

    And if architects and engineers persist in trying to build information systems and knowledge management systems according to the DIKW schema, they will continue to fall short of supporting organizational intelligence properly.


    References


    Updated 8 December 2012

    7 years, 10 months ago

    Architecture and the Imagination

    An architect looks at a valley and imagines a viaduct. She then describes this imaginary viaduct in great detail. As a result of her imagination, and the efforts of many engineers and other workers, when we visit the valley ten years later we too can s…

    9 years, 9 months ago

    Can Single Source of Truth work?

    @tonyrcollins asks if any healthcare IT system can provide a Single Source of Truth (SSOT)? In his blog (13 December 2010), he discusses a press release claiming that an electronic healthcare record system from Cerner Millennium Solutions is a “single …