Some Thoughts on Expert Software
Current successes in making computers available for data analysis will intensify the challenge to make them more useful. Cheaper, smaller and more reliable hardware will make computers available to many new users with data to analyse: few of them will have much statistical training or routine access to professional statisticians. We have a moral obligation to guide such users to good, helpful and defensible analysis. The best of current statistical systems allow users to produce many statistical summaries, graphical displays and other aids to data analysis. We have done relatively well in providing the mechanics of the analysis. Can we now go on to the strategy?
This paper examines expert software for data analysis; that is, software which tries to perform some of the functions of a statistician consulting with a client in the analysis of data. Is such software needed? Is it possible? What should it do? What should it not do? How should it be organized? Some tentative answers are proposed, with the hope of stimulating discussion and research. A comparison with expert software for other applications is made. A recent experiment at Bell Laboratories is used as an example.
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