Reading as Visual Processing

I ran across this very interesting article explaining that data visualization works because it draws our brain’s attention to outstanding features within our field of vision. This helps us get on with the business of thinking about what we are seeing rather than simply looking for something to focus on. I got to thinking about the way that I read text sources and decided that something similar must be going on. If I ready a difficult passage several times, I always read the exact same words. This defeats the purpose of filling in the context of the phrases I did understand, but it suggests that our brains are actively searching for salient features in a text without us knowing about it.

I don’t know how these insights could help me read better, but it does help me trust that my version of speed-reading picks up whatever I am able to process in the moment. Has anyone else had an experience similar to the one I am describing? Do you find the presence of marginal notes or keywords helpful in drawing your eye to particular passages? Does font or paragraph length make a difference to how much you pick out?

Publication research Workplace Culture

Peer-Review in the Workplace

I ran across this very interesting article about some peer-review processes used within the CRA and Statistics Canada: Peer Review: From academia to organizations. I particularly appreciated the author’s comments about the benefits to reviewers of being able to provide feedback anonymously. I find that in an open forum, whether in academia or government, our first instinct as authors is to defend our claims without changing the structure of our arguments. Would we experience this criticism differently if it was anonymous (and professional), even if our reviewers didn’t have the power to recommend the publication of our work?

As an aside, publication matters in government as well. Not so much because publication carries prestige but because it is a tangible example of an analyst’s productivity. In this context, the barrier to publication is not one round of anonymous reviewers but multiple rounds of review by senior management. I think that analysts might feel more confident in ‘sticking to their guns’ during a vertical approval process if their work had first undergone a formalized, horizontal review process. It is interesting to think about how disagreements about criticisms would be adjudicated if reviewers did not know one another’s identity, as would be the case during an academic peer-review process.

research Technical Training

Data Literacy

If anyone is looking for a publicly certified data literacy course, I would recommend checking out the offering from SAS: SAS Training: Data Literacy Essentials. I know that there is a bit of a leap gap between statistical literacy and data literacy, but at least learning the jargon will stand a person in good stead for the next 5-10 years.

ancient greece Encylopedia internet research

Archived Internet History

This site is a blast from the past of the educational internet: Hellenic History. All the page copyrights seem to be pre-2000, but the graphic design is pretty retro. I have been finding the subtopics on the Archaic age particularly useful. I ran into a similar resource when I was writing my MA thesis: it explained the basic engineering problems faced by Roman aqueduct builders very handily, but didn’t serve as a rigorous source because it didn’t have any citations. I have the sense that twenty or twenty-five years ago people were excited to host encyclopedia entries on their personal websites, and that some of these people just kept paying the ISP fees. These articles are somehow easier to digest then Wikipedia entires and also evoke a lot of nostalgia!