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William L. Siler, Ph.d.
09-27-1994, 02:03 AM
Mike:

I appreciated and enjoyed your comments regarding sloppy data.
Two things came to mind immediately. First, I also am concerned
about the possibility of laziness in collecting data. The source
of my concern is the realization that sloppy (lazy) data may look
fine yet the results be invalid, and the profession would never
know the difference. That is the real root of my suggestion in
an earlier posting that peer review cannot succeed as a means of
controlling science fraud and science misconduct. In either
case, what the reviewer has to judge is the investigator's report
of methodology and the reviewer's vision of what reasonable data
should look like. I find that reality troubling.

Second, I appreciated your comment regarding turnkey systems.
The potential ramifications are critical. For instance, as
systems become more turnkey, more people ignorant in the
theoretical and practical foundations of that system are able to
generate numbers. In short, we move beyond the possibility of
sloppy data to the realm of ignorant data (that is, data
collected in ignorance). Not only may those persons violate
principles crucial in the correct utilization of the instrument,
they do not have the first idea that the principles were violated
or the potential impact of those violations. While the basis for
the concern regarding ignorant data is persons from other fields
adopting biomechanical methods/systems, I believe there is a
distinct possibility that similar situations occur in isolated
biomechanics programs. Am I off-base?

By the way, in my previous position, I was limited to using
instrumentation approximately 3 generations out-of -date. While
I feel I have always taken care with my data collection, I
rapidly learned that the older equipment was unforgiving. The
slightest error left me with clearly identifiable garbage. Maybe
we should require all students to train on antiquated equipment
before gaining access to state-of-the-art, turnkey type, systems?

Later,

Bill

(William L. Siler, Ph.D.; silerwl@sluvca.slu.edu)