Friday, February 14, 2014

Not good enough.

Is it just me? How come, in some fields, it's perfectly acceptable to put out absolute garbage?

I'm talking about everything from poorly formatted files, complete lack of replicates or error bars, ugly raw excel plots, to absolutely fabricated data visualizations with way too many variables and complicated crap thrown in just to look artistic.

If I brought anything remotely like that to my advisors at any time from grad school through postdoc, I would've been shot on sight.

I keep thinking about how my advisors had no fucking clue what to do with data in unusable file formats. Even if it was the default output from equipment we used all the time. And how come the companies that made that equipment somehow managed to stay in business, in spite of their complete lack of understanding of what their customers actually needed.

And if someone showed up to lab meeting with a graph of n=1 attempt with no replicates, any of my advisors would have just laughed and tell them to do it again in triplicate.

How, if I tried to make a figure with a different kind of graph, as a clever way to represent trends in the data, they would simply refuse to even try to understand what was going on.

But I see people doing this all the time in other fields, and when I point out how uninterpretable and useless it is, everyone looks at me like I'm the one who's being "too demanding".

I don't get why it's good enough for everyone else.

I can only assume that most people don't know any better, which means they don't appreciate that it's worth taking the time to develop tools to convert data into usable formats. Or to do an experiment correctly. Or to figure out how to represent data clearly and simply.

The other thing I keep thinking about is how, when I was struggling to do all of these things at an exceptional level to please my impossible advisors, they were rarely any help. But because of the way most people interpret authorship, they still get all the credit.

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At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My advisor demands time consuming high quality,clear and stylish representation of the data other groups get by with excel plots.
Definitely worthwile making thoughtful figures though, As the figures get better, the paper's story become so much clearer in my head and writing is 100x easier plus awesome graphics for those posters and talks!
Maybe PhD's need coursework/training in s/w other than excel (Illustrator, OrIGIN graph etc etc?) woulda helped me

At 8:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you post some examples? That would be fun.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Here's a good example. Anyone want to guess what the n was on this experiment? Because percentages and error bars are meaningless without even that much information. Also: ugly!


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