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First, then, a definition. Big data describes the idea that everything can be digitised and "datafied" – thanks to cheaper storage, faster processing and better algorithms. And that really means everything, from your current location or liking for strawberry pop tarts, to your propensity for misspelling and degree of personal compassion. And not just your data: everyone's data.
This changes science, say the authors, by ridding us of biased random samples and the need to massage the resulting data to make it sufficiently representative of a larger population. Could biased sample sets be at the root of many failed attempts to replicate experiments?