Category Archives: 7.2 Research Opinion

The Downside of the “Knowledge for Knowledge’s Sake” Argument

On the PBS Newshour Duke University biologist Sheila Patek just made a passionate plea for “why knowledge for the pure sake of knowing is good enough to justify scientific research” using her own research into mantis shrimp as an example. While I support public funding for basic research, Patek makes a convoluted and ultimately harmful to her own case argument.

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Having Fun Thinking About AI Challenges

“AI” (or just smart algorithms, if you will, where smart will be plain in a few years and dumb in 10 years) is on the rise, no doubt about it. As a consequence, I’ve been having fun with “AI challenges” of the sort: Could a computer figure this out? As an example, take a look at the advertisement below. It is for a conference of University chancellors in Germany (administrative leaders of their universities). Could a computer figure out the disconnect between the depicted young people, presumably students, and the more advanced-in-years chancellors of their universities?

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Internal vs. External Validity of Research Funding

So far, most of my research funding has been from industry. Sometimes, I have to defend myself against colleagues who argue that their public funding is somehow superior to my industry funding. This is only a sentiment; they have not been able to give any particular reason for their position.

I disagree with this assessment, and for good reason. These two types of funding are not comparable and ideally you have both.

In research, there are several quality criteria, of which the so-called internal and external validity of a result are two important ones.

  • Internal validity, simplifying, is a measure of how a result is consistent within itself. Are there any contradictions within the result itself? If not so, than you may have high internal validity (which is good).
  • External validity, simplifying, is a measure of how a result is predictive or representative of the reality outside the original research data. If so, your result may have high external validity, which is also good.

Public grants have high internal validity but low external validity. In contrast, industry funding has high external validity, but low internal validity. The following figure illustrates this point:

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Once Again Natural vs Engineering Sciences Struggeling over Definitions #FSE2014

I’m in Hong Kong, attending FSE 2014. I had signed up for the Next-Generation Mining-Software-Repositories workshop at HKUST but missed it for (undisclosed) reasons. Apparently there were two main topics of dicussion:

  • Calls by colleagues to make mining work “useful” rather than “just” interesting
  • Calls by colleagues to build tools rather than “just” generate insight

Both issues are joined at the hip and an expression of a struggle over the definition of “what is good science” in software engineering. As someone who started out as a student of physics, I have an idea of science that views “interesting insights” as useful in their own right: You don’t need to build a tool that shows your insight improves the world. On the other end is the classic notion of engineering science, where there is no (publishable) research if you don’t improve the world in some tangible way.

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How I Write Reviews

As a professor of computer science I get to write a lot of reviews: For Bachelor and Master theses, for dissertations, for grant proposals, and for conference and journal paper submissions. I’d like to explain the logic of the reviews I write, using conference and journal submissions as the example. It is pretty simple:

The purpose of a review is to make a recommendation to a committee (or an editor) on how to handle a particular paper submission.

In my mind, a good review starts with the actual recommendation to the committee or the editor. All that follows is a substantiation of this recommendation.

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Software Architecture is a (Poor) Metaphor

At FAU, we are now holding our so-named “software architecture” seminar for the second time. It is important to realize (for students as well as the general public) that “software architecture” is a metaphor (or, maybe more precisely, an analogy). Architecture is a discipline several thousand years old, while software architecture is only as old as software engineering, probably younger, if you make Shaw and Garlan’s book the official birth date of software architecture, at least in academia.

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