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Techniques & Tools Data Analysis, Liquid Chromatography

Comment Is King

The cover feature in this issue is a strident call to arms for chemometricians, written by a leading light in the field, Lutgarde Buydens. In it, Buydens sets out the challenges that mega datasets present to traditional chemometrics and offers a radical blueprint to address these challenges. It’s stirring stuff.

At the risk of getting too much into the minutiae of the editorial process, the story behind commissioning the Buyden’s feature is also noteworthy.

Back in March, The Analytical Scientist published Ewa Szymańska’s thoughtful  In My View  article entitled “Why Isn’t Chemometrics Center Stage?”. We knew it was interesting, but I was startled by the volume and passion of the debate that it generated online. Some of the comments, for example, showed just how much the late Bruce Kowalski inspired his students:

“Nearly 40 years after being the first PhD out of Bruce Kowalski‘s group, chemometrics has changed very little. People are still treating the technology as ‘black magic’ and forget that chemometrics is a useful tool only when you have lots of data.” – Doug Dierdorf

“Bruce Kowalski, my post-doc supervisor 1994-6, always said that chemometrics would only impact analytical chemistry when (properly) being incorporated in software of instruments. I think he was right all the time. Specifically, the software should flag whether certain data requirements are not being met.” – Klaas Faber

Others contended that automation is essential, despite the obvious misgivings about how the inexperienced might end up using it:

“Speeding up the acquisition of a ‘clean’ data set is a great place to start. Model maintenance and updating is another opportunity for automation. This requires exquisite capture of metadata from controlled vocabularies; a foundation for automating the creation of large multivariate data sets.” - James Roberts

Given the deluge of commentary, we knew that a provocative and expansive piece on chemometrics was required, hence the Lutgarde Buydens article. Call it Reader Power; Comment is King!

Charles Prestwich Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian (now the Guardian), famously wrote “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”, in reference to his editorial values.  While this is certainly true, and nowhere more so than in the analytical sciences, in the Internet era insightful comment has the potential to question, to challenge, and to influence.

Buyden’s feature is not the end of the discussion about chemometrics by any means. Both the author and I invite you to pile in here.

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Rich Whitworth

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About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. "Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment." On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. "I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication." Rich is now also Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

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