[R] the joy of spreadsheets (off-topic)

Jim Lemon jim at bitwrit.com.au
Tue Apr 16 23:33:13 CEST 2013

On 04/17/2013 03:25 AM, Sarah Goslee wrote:
> ...
> Ouch.
> (Note: I know nothing about the site, the author of the article, or
> the study in question. I was pointed to it by someone else. But if
> true: highly problematic.)
> Sarah
There seem to be three major problems described here, and only one is 
marginally related to Excel (and similar spreadsheets). Cherry picking 
data is all too common. Almost anyone who reviews papers for publication 
will have encountered it, and there are excellent books describing 
examples that have had great influence on public policy.

Similarly, applying obscure and sometimes inappropriate statistical 
methods that produce the desired results when nothing else will appears 
with depressing frequency.

The final point does relate to Excel and any application that hides what 
is going on to the casual observer. I will treasure this URL to give to 
anyone who chastises my moaning when I have to perform some task in 
Excel. It is not an error in the application (although these certainly 
exist) but a salutory caution to those who think that if a reasonable 
looking number appears in a cell, it must be the correct answer. I have 
found not one, but two such errors in the simple calculation of a 
"birthday age" from the date of birth and date of death.


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