Be Careful Using Spreadsheets for Serious Technical Work

The Reinhart-Rogoff case makes for an excellent cautionary tale on the dangers of using spreadsheets for serious work and also a great example of science working properly due to the open exchange of experimental data and documents.

Be Careful Using Spreadsheets for Important Work

Warning someone to be careful with spreadsheets sounds like some Captain Obvious level advice, but if you read the article, you’ll see there is some good reasoning behind it. I know from experience that it’s easy to make formula errors, especially during a long slog preparing data and formulas for review. I found and corrected several spreadsheet entry and calculation errors made by the financial/pricing analyst during my work on a recent proposal. This is relevant to both financial pros and people like me who’d rather write a program to do all the calculations and then just output them to a results spreadsheet for distribution. The ease of data entry in a spreadsheet and the temptations to take shortcuts are something to remain alert for.

 

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