Data Skeptic

Kyle Polich


The Data Skeptic Podcast features interviews and discussion of topics related to data science, statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the like, all from the perspective of applying critical thinking and the scientific method to evaluate the veracity of claims and efficacy of approaches.

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476 episodes

The Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Noura Insolera, a Research Investigator with the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), joins us to share how PSID conducts longitudinal household surveys. She also shared some interesting findings from their data exploration, particularly on the observation and trends in food insecurity.

Mar 21
Survey Design Working Session

Susan Gerbic joins Kyle to review some of the surveys Data Skeptic has launch, draft a new survey about podcast listening habits, and then review the results of that survey. You can see those results at the link below. Watch the videos Susan mentioned on her Youtube page at the link below.

1h 1m
Mar 14
Bot Detection and Dyadic Surveys

The use of social bots to fill out online surveys is becoming prevalent. Today, we speak with Sara Bybee, a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of Utah. Sara shares from her research, how she detected social bots, the strategies to curb them, and how underrepresented groups can be more represented in surveys.

Mar 06
Reproducible ESP Testing

Our guest today is Zoltán Kekecs, a Ph.D. holder in Behavioural Science. Zoltán highlights the problem of low replicability in journal papers and illustrates how researchers can better ensure complete replication of their research and findings. He used Bem’s experiment as an example, extensively talking about his methodology and results.

Feb 20
A Survey of Data Science Methodologies

On the show, Iñigo Martinez, a Ph.D. student at the University of Navarra shares his survey results which investigated how data practitioners perform data science projects. He revealed the methodologies typically used by data practitioners and the success factors in data science projects.

Feb 13
Opinion Dynamics Models

On the show today, Dino Carpentras, a post-doctoral researcher at the Computational Social Science group at ETH Zürich joins us to discuss how opinion dynamics models are built and validated. He explained how quantifying opinions is complex, and strategies to develop robust models for measuring and predicting public opinions.

Feb 06
Causal Affective Triggers

Crafting survey questions is one thing but getting your audience to fill it is yet another. On the show today, we speak with Alexander Nolte, an Associate Professor at the University of Tartu. Alexander discussed the use of Casual Affective Triggers (CAT) to incentivize people to accept survey invitations and improve the completion rate. He revealed the impact of CATs on survey response rates from a study he conducted.

Jan 30
Conversational Surveys

Traditional surveys have straight-jacket questions to be answered, thus restricting the information that can be gotten. Today, Ziang Xiao, a Postdoc Researcher in the FATE group at Microsoft Research Montréal, talks about conversational surveys, a type of survey that asks questions based on preceding answers. He discussed the benefits of conversational surveys and some of the challenges it poses.

Jan 23
Do Results Generalize for Privacy and Security Surveys

Today, Jenny Tang, a Ph.D. student of societal computing at Carnegie Mellon University discusses her work on the generalization of privacy and security surveys on platforms such as Amazon MTurk and Prolific. Jenny shared the drawbacks of using such online platforms, the discrepancies observed about the samples drawn, and key insights from her results.

Jan 17
4 out of 5 Data Scientists Agree

This episode kicks off the new season of the show, DATA SKEPTIC: SURVEYS.  Linhda rejoins the show for a conversation with Kyle about her experience taking surveys and what questions she has for the season.  Lastly, Kyle announces the launch of, a new site we're launching to gather your opinions.  Please take a moment and share your thoughts!

Jan 10
Crowdfunded Board Games

It may be intuitive to think crowdfunding a project drives its innovation and novelty, but there are no empirical studies that prove this. On the show, Johannes Wachs shares his research that sought to determine whether crowdfunding truly drives innovation. He used board games as a case study and shared the results he found.

Dec 26, 2022
Russian Election Interference Effectiveness

There were reports of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections. In today’s episode, Koustuv Saha, a researcher at Microsoft Research walks us through the effect of targeted ads for political campaigns. Using practical examples, he discusses how targeted ads can propagate fake news, its ripple effects on electioneering, and how to find a sweet spot with targeted ads.

Dec 19, 2022
Placement Laundering Fraud

There is an unsung kind of ad fraud brewing in the ad tech space — placement laundering fraud. On the show, Jeff Kline discusses what placement laundering fraud is, how it can be identified, and possible solutions to it. Listen to learn more.

Dec 15, 2022
Data Clean Rooms

Bosko Milekic, the Co-founder of Optable, a data collaboration platform for the media and advertising industry, joins us today. Bosko talked about the clean rooms, the technology driving data privacy during collaboration. He discussed why clean rooms are gaining widespread adoption, and how users can exploit Optable’s clean room platform for a secured data-sharing experience.

Dec 12, 2022
Dark Patterns in Site Design

Kerstin Bongard-Blanchy is a Research Associate at the University of Luxembourg. She joins us to discuss her study that investigated dark patterns in web designs. She discussed the results, the effect of dark patterns effect on users, whether an average user can detect them, and the way forward to a more ethical web space.

Dec 05, 2022
Internet Advertising Bureau Media Lab

We are joined by Anthony Katsur, the CEO of IAB Tech Lab. Anthony discusses standards within the ad tech industry. He explained how IAB Tech Lab set and propagates global standards, actions to ensure compliance from advertisers, and industry trends for a more privacy-centric ad tech space.

Dec 03, 2022
Your Mouse Reveals Your Gender and Age

When we navigate a webpage, it is fairly easy for our mouse movement to be tracked and collected. Today, Luis Leiva, a Professor of Computer Science discusses how these mouse tracking data can be used to predict age, gender and user attention. He also discusses the privacy concerns with mouse tracking data and possible ways it can be curtailed.

Nov 28, 2022
Measuring Web Search Behavior

On the show, Aleksandra Urman and Mykola Makhortykh join us to discuss their work on the comparative analysis of web search behavior using web tracking data. They shared interesting results from their analysis, bordering around the user preferences for search engines, demographic patterns, and differences between how men and women surf the net.

Nov 21, 2022
StrategyQA and Big Bench

Did Aristotle Use a Laptop?  That's a question from the StrategyQA benchmark which highlights the stretch goals for current artificial intelligence systems.  Answering a question like that requires several cognitive steps and reasoning.  Constructing a dataset of similarly challenging questions is a major undertaking.  On today's episode, Mor Geva returns to share details about the creation of StrategyQA and the larger Big Bench dataset it has been included in.

Nov 18, 2022
Ad Blockers Effect on News Consumption

While at first glance, the use of ad blockers drops the revenue of news publishers, this may not be completely true. On the show today, Shunyao Yan, an Assistant Professor in Marketing at Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, discussed the effect of ad blockers on news consumption and how ad blockers can potentially be helpful for news publishers.

Nov 14, 2022
Your Consent is Worth 75 Euros a Year

People who do not want their data tracked and shared online can pay a token for a cookie paywall. But are the websites keeping to their side of the bargain? Victor Morel, a Postdoc candidate at the Chalmers University of Technology joins us to discuss his work around auditing the activities of cookie paywalls. He discussed the findings from his analysis and proffers some solutions to making cookie paywalls more transparent.

Nov 07, 2022
Automated Email Generation for Targeted Attacks

The advancement of generative language models has been a force for good, but also for evil. On the show, Avisha Das, a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Texas Health Center, joins us to discuss how attackers use machine learning to create unsuspecting phishing emails. She also discussed how she used RNN for automated email generation, with the goal of defeating statistical detectors. 

Oct 31, 2022
Tribal Marketing

Peter Gloor, a Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, takes us on a new world of tribe classification. He extensively discussed the need for such classification on the internet and how he built a machine learning model that does it. Listen to find out more!

Oct 24, 2022
Debiasing GPT-3 Job Ads

We hear about the impeccable achievements of GPT-3 models, but such large generative models come with their bias. On the show today, Conrad Borchers, a Ph.D. student in Human-Computer Interaction, joins us to discuss the bias in GPT-3 for job ads and how such large models can be de-biased. Listen to learn more!

Oct 10, 2022
ML Ops in Production

Moses Guttman from Clear ML joins us to share insights about how organizations leveraging machine learning keep their programs on track.  While many parallels exist between the software development life cycle (SWLC) and the machine learning development life cycle, successful deployments of ML in production have demonstrated that a unique set of tools is required.  Moses and I discuss the emergence of ML Ops, success stories, and how modern teams leverage tools like Clear ML's open source solution to maximize the value of ML in the organization.  

Oct 06, 2022
Ad Network Tomography

Data sharing in the ad tech space has largely been a black box system. While it is obvious the data is being collected, the data sharing process is obscure to users. On the show today, Maaz Bin Musa and Rishab, both researchers at the University of Iowa, speak about the importance of data transparency and their tool, ATOM for data transparency. Listen to find out how ATOM uncovers data-sharing relationships in the ad-tech space.

Oct 03, 2022
First Party Tracking Cookies

When you accept cookies on a website, you cannot tell whether the cookies are used for tracking your personal data or not. Shaoor Munir’s machine learning model does that. On the show today, the Ph.D student at the University of California, discussed the world of first-party cookies and how he developed a machine learning model that predicts whether a first-party cookie is used for tracking purposes.

Sep 26, 2022
The Harms of Targeted Weight Loss Ads

Liza Gak, a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, joins us to discuss her research on harmful weight loss advertising. She discussed how weight loss ads are not fact-checked, and how they typically target the most vulnerable. She extensively discussed her interview process, data analysis, and results. Listen for more!

Sep 19, 2022
Podcast Advertising

Growing your podcast to the point of monetization is not a walk in the park. Today, Rob Walch, the VP of Podcast Relations at Libsyn talks about podcast advertising. He discussed how advertising works, how to grow your audience and some blueprints to being a successful podcaster. Listen for more.

Sep 12, 2022