View Full Version : sloppy data

William L. Siler, Ph.d.
09-26-1994, 11:34 PM
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To: IN%"silerwl@SLUVCA.SLU.EDU"
Subj: sloppiness

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Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 19:00:32 -0600 (CST)
Subject: sloppiness
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A comment on sloppy data. There seem to be some protective reaction on poor
equipment and unknown methods, both are addressable. If there are equipment
restrictions in the experiment, it should be characterizable in terms of
resolution, accuracy, bandwidth, etc. Those restrictions should then be taken
into account when the data are analyzed and presented - you can't draw
conclusions that are not supported by the data. Less precise equipment can be
used to draw a certain level of conclusion at any time and, if the experiment
is designed with those limitations in mind tasks/steps can be planned that
are not as severely affected by the equipment limitations.

There is no defense for methodology as a cause for sloppiness. If the procedure
used is not a standard one it should be described in the publication along with
the justification for adopting it. If it is proprietary, then no claims based
on it should be presented until the process is protected and can be described.

Perhaps part of the problem is that it takes time and thought to be a good
experimentalist and too many researchers are under too much pressure to adopt
good practice consistently. Or to carefully pass it on to students. That would
be the 'good' side, the other would be that people are just too lazy to be
both knowledgable and careful. I don't believe there is any such thing as a
truly 'turnkey' experimental system, but I sometimes sense - particularly on
this list - that people are trying to take such an approach. You have to
understand the measurement system and software packages if you are going to
use them effectively and accurately. I hope laziness is not even a minor


Mike Murphy