Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cargo cult writing

Richard Feynman coined the term cargo cult science, which can be defined thus:

"Cargo cults ... focus on obtaining the material wealth (the "cargo") of the advanced culture by imitating the actions they believe cause the appearance of cargo ... Similarly, although cargo cult sciences employ the trappings of the scientific method, like an airplane with no motor they fail to deliver anything of value."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult_science

Increasingly, I'm seeing in undergraduate student writing something that I think is best described as "cargo-cult writing". By this, I mean the construction of phrases that seem focussed on sounding scientific rather than communicating clearly. If you skim cargo-cult writing, it can appear scientific, but when you  read it for meaning, it is unclear, often ungrammatical, and says very little of substance. For example:

"The classification of knowledge is thought to have a structure that is distinctively separate."

"This would uncover an in-depth explanation for the organisation of knowledge is disrupted, and implement better treatment for individuals in need."

"Several explanations behind these inconclusive results can be argued to
suggest that control of variables was not maintained."


Somehow, we need to focus students back on the idea that science is about communicating clearly, in the plainest English possible. Using complex, difficult-to-read language is sometimes a byproduct of talking about complex issues with precision -- but it's not a goal in itself!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

No longer an h-teen :-)


My h-index on Google Scholar just hit 20 - I'm no longer an h-index teen :-)

Supporting the R Foundation



Support the R Foundation by becoming an Contributing Member (25 EUR / year). R is a free and open-source environment with particular strengths in statistical analysis.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Top 1%

Quick follow-up on a metric I first reported five years ago - I'm still in the Top 30 categorization researchers worldwide (among about 4500 published authors). That puts me in the top 1%. Methodology here:  http://willslabblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/top-30.html

Friday, November 10, 2017

Supporting GNU Toolchain

GNU toolchain, which includes a great C/C++ compiler among many other things, is central to many free software projects. They are now accepting donations. I donated around 7 mBTC (milli-Bitcoin, as of 2017-09-11, 1 mBTC = ~ £5).

This was the first thing I've ever done with Bitcoin, and it was a bit of a faff. Buying bitcoin with GBP is not easy, and involves all manner of authentication steps, including mobile phone verification - so...much harder than getting, say, Euros or US Dollars.