Saturday, July 23, 2011

Statistics and lies

According to Wikipedia, "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments.

In the case of great "achievers" of India, it apparently means that you can say whatever you want irrespective whether the statistics or data is correct.

Mr. N R Narayana Murthy says, ""In 2004, China produced 2,652 PhDs in computer science and in that year the figure was 24 in our country," " In 1967, at the electrical engineering department of IIT-Kanpur there were about 60 to 70 students registered for PhD. But today, at the same department if there are five PhD students joining in a year, that would be fantastic,"

First, the claim that there were 70 students registered for Ph.D at the electrical engineering department of IIT-K in 1967 is not very believable. According to the data that I have, IIT-K graduated only 19 Ph.Ds in 1967. Further, the claim that there are less than five PhD students joining in 2011 in that department is plainly ridiculous. According to the IIT Kanpur website, there are currently 110 doctoral students registered in electrical engineering department with nearly 25 students joining this year

Second, I do not know where he got the data that China produced 2652 Ph.Ds in computer science. In 2004, US produced around 950 doctorates in computer science. According to the S&E report by NSF, China graduated 417 doctorates in computer science and mathematics in 2000 and I really doubt that the number shot up to more than 2500 in four years.

Before saying something on a public forum, it may be a wise to check the data. Of course, to get these data, one may require to use complicated technology like google search.

Update: My colleagues, Abi and Arunn, have written about in their blog, here and there, respectively.


Anonymous said...

I am now in third year of BE. I am planning to write GATE exam this year since I have heard that GATE score is valid for two years. Is it true?
If I secure a good rank this year, then can I get admission to my selected college after a year?

Anonymous said...

narayana murthy is slowly but surely becoming a joke. on one day(when his son had finished his 12th std and did not get into a desired program at an IIT) he says that the IITs are better than most of the top US univs. and most of the other times he lambasts the iits for its low research output.

on other days he blasts a particular caste "brahmins" for the slow economic development in india
link. not that im saying that the brahmins have done a very good job either, but to single out a particular community is sad.

however i feel that some serious questions have to be asked about the running of infosys. how much money has infosys spent on R&D. has infosys developed any major softwares. what has been the contribution of infosys in the open source revolution. also funding for R&D in software is the cheapest of its kind, compared to R&D in hardware and other fields of engg, pure science. yet in spite of the IT boom very little innovative work has been carried out in india

one can conclude that iisc/old iits compare to a 70th ranked university in the US and probably rank around 150-250 globally. we have already seen the boom in higher education once the government relaxed the norms. a similar revolution needs to happen to research/high tech in india. people like mr narayana murthy, tata, etc have to invest money in research and research has to be privatized.

in short, naraya murthy is no "achiever". he is a business man/corporate/pseudo politician.

Anonymous said...

Every year, there can be changes in eligibility criteria. So, check the brochure of GATE 2012. If GATE 2012 score is valid for 2 years, you can appear this year, and with this year's score you can apply the next year.

Harisankar H said...

Your article sets a good standard to reason based on evidence on controversial issues. If only, our "media figures" had half of this rational attitude.

Anonymous said...

As Einstein supposedly said, "If the facts don't change the theory, change the facts."

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote that is (wrongly) attributed to NRNarayanamurty:
"In God we trust; all others must bring data to the table".

Probably he meant to say:
"In God we trust; all others must bring data, _any_ data, as long as it is data, to the table".

Rashid said...

Sir, Very well written.

IIT EXAM said...

Thanks for sharing these & very well explain post. Some thing new to learn from this helpful post.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Giri

I fully agreed with the facts mentioned by you. In fact, Dr. Narayana Murthy must retract from the facts he claimed in chapter of his book. But if look a broader message what he want to convey in the same chapter is that our research quality is decreasing. It's quite true also. Our universities have lost their identity with time. I am also from chemical background so, can talk little about it In past UDCT, PU, IT-BHU were world renowned but now these are good UG institutions only. In chemical field, persons of the stature of Prof. M. M. Sharma, Prof. Gandhi, Prof. R. Kumar are not there. In past, PU, IT-BHU gave faculty to institute like IISc. Now, I think it's nearly impossible. Apart from IISc, IIT K, IIT B, I think there are very few groups who are doing world class research. Somewhere, quantity have increased in recent years but average quality decreased. Also, I don't think it's right to hit out a person of Mr. Murthy just because he used some wrong stats. He is one of the most respectable business man in India. He is doing things in countries interest (Infosys Award is also started by him only). He is not like reliance who are making money for themselves but he is following legacy of Tatas. He also step down from Infy. He kept nepotism away from Infy. I am nowhere defending his wrong stats. My only point is that just based on some wrong stats, we should not make a wrong perception for him.

AIEEE EXAM said...

You make some very great points that all should follow!  I will need to deeply consider some of them! It really isn't that easy as the many people make it seem.  You really ought to be very very persistenet and you should never give up.  The results will show in due time.