I stumbled upon this collocation of words in the opening lines of Wikipedia's entry on Data analysis (emphasis added):

...a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making.

I've probably seen it before, without raising any objections. But, now that I've been asked to translate a text where this very excerpt is cited, it seems the time has come. The thing is it seems somehow inherently oblique to be speaking, on behalf of the "concluder", about conclusions, as if these are not already reached.

Diplomacy jargon, or something like that.

You can hardly tell someone:
"Here are some conclusions, but I haven't reached them. Do it yourself if you want".

I mean, is there really such a thing as an idle conclusion?
Once reached, it's validated, conceptually. Until then, it isn't there.

The only thing one can do, once having reached it, is to ask the other party if they agree.

Does it actually make sense to suggest a conclusion?

  • I would have passed over it if you hadn't pointed it out. "Drawing conclusions" or some such might be better. – Mick Nov 15 '16 at 18:08
  • '... suggesting various conclusions' does sound somewhat less weak than '... suggesting conclusions', but this is a matter of idiomaticity rather than grammaticality. Certainly 'Here are some conclusions, but I haven't reached them.' sounds ridiculous (and might be purloined by a comedian). English is unpredictable as regards degree of acceptability in these areas. I'd not worry about your Wikipedia example. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 15 '16 at 18:14
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    Most of us don't yet trust computer analysis to actually "decide, conclude" anything (we all know about the ridiculous mistakes computers sometimes make). So for the time being the most we allow them to do is suggest things which real thinking human beings might or might not decide to treat as "accurate". – FumbleFingers Nov 15 '16 at 18:16
  • To clarify it in my mind, I'd hold the "suggesting" and change "conclusions" to "potential outcomes" or maybe "solutions." – Papa Poule Nov 15 '16 at 18:20
  • Don't jump to conclusions. – Mitch Nov 17 '16 at 14:12

It's a bit of an odd construction, but I don't think it's that unusual if you view the data as suggesting a conclusion rather than a person doing so. Certainly one could say that

Our data suggest the conclusion that orange juice futures will rise next quarter.

However, it would probably be more natural (at least for me) to say

Our data suggest that orange juice futures will rise next quarter.

For the reasons stated in the question, though, it would seem odd to say

# We can suggest the conclusion that orange juice futures will rise next quarter.

as this implies a certain contingency or lack of confidence in this conclusion. A better way to phrase this would be

We can draw the conclusion that orange juice futures will rise next quarter.

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  • When you have a particular conclusion in mind, it's redundant to say "the conclusion that", but when speaking of data analysis in general there are many different conclusions that might be suggested by the various data analyses one might perform. So it is an unusual construction, but only because we don't often speak in such general terms. – David K Nov 15 '16 at 19:51

It's using "conclusion" in a somewhat different sense than usual. Basically, "conclusion" here means "decision" or (in the sense of, say, a court of law) "finding" (noun), and the job being described would involve not only collecting the information that would lead to a decision, but also suggesting one or more possible decisions ("conclusions") that would logically follow from that information.

It's important to note that this activity does not itself produce a "conclusion", in the sense of a "final pronouncement", but rather supplies the "raw materials" so that some other entity can make that pronouncement.

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It would be accurate to write something like:

The LHC’s failure to find evidence for Susy suggests the conclusion that so-called composite-Higgs models, which assume the Higgs is made up of even smaller constituent particles, should get more attention.

The essential part of the above comes from The Economist, A bet about a cherished theory of physics may soon pay out.

The LHC is the Large Hadron Collider; Susy is short for the theory of supersymmetrical particles (sparticles).

The point is that Susy cannot be disproved, the theory can only be tweaked to make the appearance of the lightest sparticle unlikely at LHC energies, or the energy obtainable at the next collider, or the next.... So there can be no conclusion, only the suggestion of a conclusion as to the non-existence of sparticles and for more productive avenues of theoretical research.

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