Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Let's stop using engineering as in insult.

I've had this conversation way too often when discussing funding proposals, paper submissions, candidates, and talks. After reading a paper or hearing a talk, one person says,
I like XX about the work, but this is just engineering. Where is the science?
I think the language is way wrong:

  • The sentiment is usually that the work lacks technical novelty or innovation. I often agree with this sentiment. However: What field is it where innovation is sought and technical challenges overcome? Engineering.  
  • Do you really think that we should be doing science? That is, coming up with a hypothesis, developing an experiment to test that hypothesis, performing that experiment, and then reporting the statistical significance of your results? 
  • Talk about self-hatred and low self-esteem. Are we really going to say "just engineering" when we call ourselves engineers? How is this as an outreach and retention strategy?
  • Do you really think scientists say: "I like XX about the work, but this is just science.  Where is the engineering?"

1 comment:

  1. I see this a lot, but with a slight twist: "...this is just implementation, where is the research?" Well, the research _is_ the implementation, we can't all assume perfect synchronization, perfect channel knowledge, etc.; somebody has to figure out _how_ to do those things.