This is why code written by scientists gets ugly

brilliant piece of why scientists write bad code

What You're Doing Is Rather Desperate

There’s a lot of discussion around why code written by self-taught “scientist programmers” rarely follows what a trained computer scientist would consider “best practice”. Here’s a recent post on the topic.

One answer: we begin with exploratory data analysis and never get around to cleaning it up.

An example. For some reason, a researcher (let’s call him “Bob”) becomes interested in a particular dataset in the GEO database. So Bob opens the R console and use the GEOquery package to grab the data:

Bob is interested in the covariates and metadata associated with the experiment, which he can access using pData().

Bob discovers that pd$characteristics_ch1.2 is “age at examination”, but it’s stored as a factor. He’d like to use it as a numeric variable. So he sets about figuring out how to do the conversion.

Three levels of nested methods. Ugly. However, it works, so Bob moves to…

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Author: Ajay Ohri

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