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sloppy data

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  • sloppy data

    Dear Colleagues:

    Yesterday, I posted a reply to a message sent to me by Dr. Mike
    Murphy. I forwarded Mike's message to the list at large at the
    same time. Unfortunately, the forwarded message was returned
    undelivered leaving you with a reply to a message you had not
    seen. I apologize. The attached is Mike's original message:


    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 problem.


    Mike Murphy