On publishing the “obvious”

As a requirement for the course “Advanced Propositional Reasoning” that I’m taking, today I did a presentation of a very very interesting paper titled Empirical study of the anatomy of modern SAT solvers. You can find my slides here.

Earlier in the day, I almost caught the end of Alicia‘s practice talk for her paper On the Perceived Interdependence and Information Sharing Inhibitions of Enterprise Software Engineers that will appear at CSCW 2012. Part of her most recent results is apparently some data that substantiates certain things which are supposedly “common knowledge”. (I won’t elaborate, wait for her paper in CSCW.)

It’s interesting how that closely parallels the situation of the findings of the SAT solvers paper. That paper also substantiates with empirical data some things assumed to be “common knowledge”. What I want to say is that basically, that’s a very good thing! Sure, if your empirical investigation finds something that refutes commonly held perceptions, that’s more exciting (and I guess more publishable). But confirming anecdotal knowledge with hard scientific investigation is just as important!

This points to the often talked about(*) “problem” with empirical research: it takes big amounts of energy to conduct and there is a good chance the results will be considered unimpressive.  But empirical research is of paramount importance to Software Engineering! I won’t argue for that, I will just point to this page.

(*) See? Anecdotal knowledge! 🙂

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