Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bragging about data volume is lame

I've noticed a trend in some papers these days of bragging about the volume of data you collect. Here's an example (slightly modified) from a paper I was just looking at "We analyzed a total of 293,112 images." Often times, these numbers serve no real purpose except to highlight that you took a lot of data, which I think is sort of lame.

Of course, numbers in general are good and are an important element in describing experiments. Like "We took pictures of at least 5000 cells in 592 conditions." That gives a sense of the scale of the experiment and is important for the interpretation. But if you just say "We imaged a total of 2,948,378 cells", then that provides very little useful information about why you imaged all those cells. Are they all the same? Is that across multiple conditions? What is the point of this number except to impress?

And before you leave a comment, yes, I know we did that in this paper. Oops. I feel icky.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed: Bragging about data volume is very lame and usually its sole purpose is to impress. It is similar to the use of adjectives and phrases such as dramatic and strikingly important. I wonder if these tactics work with some readers/editors. They seem more prevalent in "high impact" journals and magazines but this is correlation, not causation.