Hammer that Nail

Here is an excerpt from an editorial I wrote published in the Appita Journal. The article was about trends in on-line measurement on the paper machine. Here are a few quotes about measurement which I found really thought provoking. If you have a favourite or one of your own it would be good to see your comments:

‘To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” ― Roger Lowenstein, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” ― H. James Harrington

“Every line is the perfect length if you don’t measure it.” ― Marty Rubin

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” ― Jim Barksdale, the former Netscape CEO51b30f_1d60d92d9acc421b854a9ad7c859a754
“In God we trust. All others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and consultant

“Torture the data, and it will confess to anything.” -Ronald Coase, Economics, Nobel Prize Laureate

My favourite is the one about torturing data. I have been analysing data for many years and it is one of the biggest traps – a human trait to see patterns where there is none. I noticed recently that there had been a study, published in Nature, where only a relatively small proportion of conclusions reached in medical studies published and peer reviewed in the literature can actually be confirmed based (in a statistical sense) on the data presented and explains why many studies cannot be subsequently reproduced.