In my last post in the series on analytical problems in dendroclimatology, the issue of sharing computer code was raised, which is part of the larger issue of being fully open about one’s claims, so that other people can check them. I am pretty much 100% in the camp that everything in science needs to be defensible, and so all critical assumptions, inferential methods, data, computer code etc., does need to be made available to the world at large. We all do definitely have to defend our work, and that’s how you defend it. Saying “trust me” will not cut it.
But it’s not really as simple as just handing over everything you have done–there are questions of what exactly is owed, to whom, and in what form and when it is owed. There is a contingent of people that apparently thinks every scientist has some massive pile of federal grant money that funds their work and is therefore obligated to immediately release every piece of work they’ve ever done, upon request. That’s just not even remotely the case. In my case, a tremendous amount of completely unpaid work went into the coding and general discovery of the issues I’m addressing in these posts, while I have gotten utterly nothing at all in return for it. If I were to go into detail on this, people would likely be surprised or shocked, judging from the looks on peoples’ faces when I tell them in person. Not only did I have no grant money or salary, and receive no income, but in fact, so far the work has cost me a great deal of money, time, sleep and serenity. I did it because I’m interested in the topic and I get pretty obsessive when I tear into something like this, usually being unable to drop it.
After that individual’s comment I later stated that I would put some code up demonstrating why what I have claimed in that post is true. And indeed, because the original code is extremely long and complex and part of a much larger project that involves the development of new analytical methods, I can’t just release it and have it be useful in any meaningful way in concisely illustrating the concepts there–it’s too long and unwieldy and messy and full of comments. It still needs cleaning up in various ways, even if the basic structure is sound.
This in turn means I would have to basically start from scratch and write new code that concisely produces the results I showed in that post in order to adequately respond to a request/demand for code to be put up. And so indeed that is exactly what I did the last three hours, and was just about to post up the code, when I got to thinking about just what is, and what is not, legitimate to demand from someone, especially anonymously on the internet, and especially when people accuse you of playing games and make statements that indicate that doing such work themselves is a burden.
It makes me wonder who the average person thinks we scientists are exactly. Or perhaps my situation is just so out of the norm with respect to this work, that people naturally assume things that are far from true, I don’t know.
So I really don’t know if I’m going to post the code I just got done writing or not. I really don’t.