Is Computer Science Truly Scientific?: Reflections on the (Experimental) Scientific Method in Computer Science Articles
- COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM Journal
- July 2010
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- We are sorry to inform you that your paper has been rejected, due to the lack of empirical evidence supporting it." It may well be the case that some of us, inthe course of our academic lives have received or will receive—perhaps morethan once—a communication similar to the previous sentence. It seems there is a widespread idea that a work only deserves to be qualified as "scientific" if it is supported by "empirical evidence" (from the Greek empeiría, experience). In this column I will present some arguments (and attempt to convince the reader) that this stance is completely insufficient, and to recover a place in our academic lives for a kind of research that is more speculative than experimental in character. Of course, I do not intend to question the legitimacy of experimental research, but rather to argue that a harmony must exist between the two. However, this harmony seems to be particularly menaced in current computer science research. This is a paradoxical situation, since computer science is rooted both in speculative sciences such as mathematics and experimental sciences such as physics.