Address to my students

Reading the literature almost always tempts me to conclude that the quality of the standard paper is below average. Let me list a few of the standard shortcomings of the standard paper:

So far, so bad. Worse often surfaces when one discusses these shortcomings with the author. While agreeing in an abstract way, he yet defends his articles with arguments in the following vein:

Having a solid germ of truth, his defense sounds almost plausible. But we should not forget the following:

We should never forget the crucial distinction between the salesman and the scientist. It is the salesman's duty to please his customers or, if that is too difficult, to fool them. It is the scientist's duty to raise our abilities by increasing our standards for quality and effectiveness, to show what can be done well by pursuing the just possible, and to clarify ruthlessly, independently of the fact that complexity sells better.

In these respects, there is no room for compromise: the alternative is no less than scientific corruption, and remember that the commonness of the latter phenomenon does not make it respectable.

Of course, you are free to join "for your protection" an XYZ community by accepting its standards as law; but if you do so, know that the scientist in you has been replaced by the party member.

Austin, 14 April 1986

prof.dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra
Department of Computer Sciences
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712-1111
United States of America

Transcriber: Kevin Hely.

Last revised on Sun, 30 May 2010.