Are computer scientists hypercritical, even more critical than scientists and engineers in other disciplines? Bertrand Meyer from ETH Zürich cites statistics that, in 1-to-5 evaluations of projects submitted to the NSF, the average grade of computer science projects is one full point lower than the average for other disciplines.
I have three hypotheses,” said now Jeannette M. Wing, formerly of NSF. “One is that it is in our nature. Computer scientists like to debug systems. We are trained to consider corner cases, to design for failure, and to find and fix flaws. Computers are unforgiving when faced with the smallest syntactic error in our program; we spend research careers on designing programming languages and building software tools to help us make sure we don’t make silly mistakes that could have disastrous consequences. It could even be that the very nature of the field attracts a certain kind of personality. The second hypothesis is that we are a young field. Compared to mathematics and other science and engineering disciplines, we are still asserting ourselves. Maybe as we gain more self-confidence we will be more supportive of each other and realize that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The third hypothesis is obvious: limited and finite resources. When there is only so much money to go around or only so many slots in a conference, competition is keen. When the number of researchers in the community grows faster than the budget — as it has over the past decade or so — competition is even keener.
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