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10 May 2012

'The End of Scientific Intuition?'

Location: Meeting Room 10, 2nd Floor, JLB
Time: 12:30pm - 13:45pm

Over the last two decades computers have become more powerful, more robust, smaller and cheaper. Many areas of science would not now be able to function adequately without them. Certainly computers have brought huge benefits to scientific research but, at the same time, they have created problems. A major problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to use scientific intuition to evaluate a research result and that much greater trust has to be placed on the correctness of computational products. In this talk I will look at a number of the issues that hinder the reproducibility of scientific research. I will examine a number of case studies including those from omics-based research and from human behaviour, geophysics, medical and harmonic analysis research. Some of the case studies illustrate the problems that researchers face in packaging up materials that support research. Others illustrate potential solutions. I will focus on how deficiencies in hardware, software, data and statistical processing can cause problems in scientific research and the steps that are needed to overcome them. There are lessons here for research organisations, academic journals and individual researchers and I hope to draw them out. There are many issues and problems that need to be addressed including the changing nature of universities, the education of scientists and the lack of adequate tools to assist reproducibility.

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Contact: mailto:h.c.sharp@open.ac.uk