Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

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liveboy21
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Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby liveboy21 » Wed May 01, 2013 11:39 pm UTC

Link to article : http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/29/sopa-creators-latest-bill-proposes-stripping-peer-review-from-science-funding/

Smith’s “High Quality Research Act,” embedded below, scraps the NSF’s current peer-review process, which solicits the opinions of independent experts as to the “intellectual merit” and “broader impacts” of proposed research. In its stead, a new set of non-scientific standards for science funding are proposed.

Those proposed standards are three-fold, requiring the NSF’s director to certify that all accepted research proposals are: “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science; the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.” The draft bill also requires that the NSF director report to Congress how the same criteria can be applied to “other Federal science agencies.”

In addition to the problem of stripping out a transparent, peer-review process, the new standards also discount the importance of research duplication, an important part of the scientific process. Without overlapping research, scientists cannot independently verify experimental results from other laboratories.


I'm not entirely sure what's going on here. Are they attempting to remove peer review? Are they going to prevent the use of the scientific method on...scientific research?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Derek » Thu May 02, 2013 1:01 am UTC

It sounds like his problem is with research that (in his view) does not contribute to the national welfare. This would probably include highly theoretical work and "science for science's sake". It also looks like he wants to see less redundancy in research. I would infer from this that he believes that the current system is spending too much money for too little (immediate) benefit.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Gelsamel » Thu May 02, 2013 4:53 am UTC

The redundancy is a huge part of what makes science as useful as it is...
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Ormurinn » Thu May 02, 2013 6:14 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:The redundancy is a huge part of what makes science as useful as it is...


Yeah, this is some prat who doesn't understand science legislating on science...
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Magnanimous » Thu May 02, 2013 6:20 am UTC

I kind of wonder how well people understand the difference between science (rigorous testing, peer review, etc) and the results of science (knowledge about X, vaccines, space explorations, explosions, high fives). Because they're both kind of just called "science".

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby johnny_7713 » Thu May 02, 2013 8:41 am UTC

liveboy21 wrote:Link to article : http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/29/sopa-creators-latest-bill-proposes-stripping-peer-review-from-science-funding/

Smith’s “High Quality Research Act,” embedded below, scraps the NSF’s current peer-review process, which solicits the opinions of independent experts as to the “intellectual merit” and “broader impacts” of proposed research. In its stead, a new set of non-scientific standards for science funding are proposed.

Those proposed standards are three-fold, requiring the NSF’s director to certify that all accepted research proposals are: “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science; the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.” The draft bill also requires that the NSF director report to Congress how the same criteria can be applied to “other Federal science agencies.”

In addition to the problem of stripping out a transparent, peer-review process, the new standards also discount the importance of research duplication, an important part of the scientific process. Without overlapping research, scientists cannot independently verify experimental results from other laboratories.


I'm not entirely sure what's going on here. Are they attempting to remove peer review? Are they going to prevent the use of the scientific method on...scientific research?


This bill deals specifically with the process of getting a grant from the NSF, not with science in general. Currently to get a grant you submit a proposal, which is then scored by peer review. If it scores high enough you get a grant (typically* there is a certain amount of money for a specific theme or topic, which is distributed among the X highest scoring proposals). It appears that this bill wants the scoring to be done by the NSF itself, rather than by external peer review. It's also worth noting that current funding agencies, even with peer review, already place a large value on originality. This bill does not necessarily worsen that (based off what I read here). Also, good luck getting published in the ' top impact' journals (e.g. Nature & Science) if your work is not original. Research duplication has been under attack for quite a while.

None of this is to say that this bill is a good idea by the way.

*Based on the funding sources used at my Dutch university, I imagine the US situation is similar.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Diadem » Thu May 02, 2013 9:30 am UTC

The "In the interests of the United States" part worries me most. Scientific Research has always been a very international effort. Even during the height of the cold war there was scientific cooperation between the east and the west. There has always been the ideal of 'the betterment of all mankind'. This bill seems an explicit attack on that spirit.

It also makes scientific research even more susceptible to political pressures. Is research into climate change, or the effects on gun ownership, in the interest of the United States? And who decides that?
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Ormurinn » Thu May 02, 2013 12:26 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:The "In the interests of the United States" part worries me most. Scientific Research has always been a very international effort. Even during the height of the cold war there was scientific cooperation between the east and the west. There has always been the ideal of 'the betterment of all mankind'. This bill seems an explicit attack on that spirit.

It also makes scientific research even more susceptible to political pressures. Is research into climate change, or the effects on gun ownership, in the interest of the United States? And who decides that?


I don't agree with the author of this bill, at all, but channeling funding into research that's likely to benefit the citizens of your country is eminently reasonable - after all, they're the ones funding it with their taxes.
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Heisenberg » Thu May 02, 2013 1:16 pm UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:It appears that this bill wants the scoring to be done by the NSF itself, rather than by external peer review.

Which means that the power to award grants will be taken from independent reviewers and given to a bureaucrat appointed by the sitting President.

So really Lamar Smith wants the President to have more control over who gets grants and who doesn't. Which is of course, awful, because research in political battlegrounds could get funded, defunded, and refunded based on the political affiliation of the current President (and his appointed NSF Director) rather than by the merits of the actual research.

Or in a slightly less sinister area, a Florida Senator who gets appointed to be NSF director might approve more grants to Florida State, Florida, and Miami.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Tirian » Thu May 02, 2013 1:43 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:
Diadem wrote:The "In the interests of the United States" part worries me most. Scientific Research has always been a very international effort. Even during the height of the cold war there was scientific cooperation between the east and the west. There has always been the ideal of 'the betterment of all mankind'. This bill seems an explicit attack on that spirit.

It also makes scientific research even more susceptible to political pressures. Is research into climate change, or the effects on gun ownership, in the interest of the United States? And who decides that?


I don't agree with the author of this bill, at all, but channeling funding into research that's likely to benefit the citizens of your country is eminently reasonable - after all, they're the ones funding it with their taxes.


I don't think that the American national interest means "Screw France and Germany." There is a potential that the national (i.e. taxpayer) interests may embiggen mankind more effectively than pure scientific pursuit. For instance, I think that the past few decades have shown that science is fascinated with more powerful medicines and therapies that are bankrupting us as a society. If I were President, I would want taxpayer research dedicated to making our current level of health care 2% cheaper every year instead of our current path of health care that is more comprehensive but 10% more expensive every year. Of course, like with everything else the government does, one would need a President who thought that the national interests meant protecting Medicare's bottom line and not Pfizer's.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 1:51 pm UTC

Derek wrote:It sounds like his problem is with research that (in his view) does not contribute to the national welfare. This would probably include highly theoretical work and "science for science's sake". It also looks like he wants to see less redundancy in research. I would infer from this that he believes that the current system is spending too much money for too little (immediate) benefit.


But mathematicians pursuing their esoteric hobbies in the 19th century is the entire basis of computers in the 20th century. Where do they think linear algebra comes from?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby curtis95112 » Thu May 02, 2013 2:16 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Derek wrote:It sounds like his problem is with research that (in his view) does not contribute to the national welfare. This would probably include highly theoretical work and "science for science's sake". It also looks like he wants to see less redundancy in research. I would infer from this that he believes that the current system is spending too much money for too little (immediate) benefit.


But mathematicians pursuing their esoteric hobbies in the 19th century is the entire basis of computers in the 20th century. Where do they think linear algebra comes from?


The more pertinent question, I think, is whether they've ever even heard of linear algebra.
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby fifiste » Thu May 02, 2013 2:21 pm UTC

curtis95112 wrote:The more pertinent question, I think, is whether they've ever even heard of linear algebra.

Painful, but true.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Ormurinn » Thu May 02, 2013 2:29 pm UTC

fifiste wrote:
curtis95112 wrote:The more pertinent question, I think, is whether they've ever even heard of linear algebra.

Painful, but true.


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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 2:31 pm UTC

Heh is funny because 'algebra' is an Arabic name, because it's an Arab invention. As is distillation of 'alcohol', and the progenitor of modern science, 'alchemy'.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby JudeMorrigan » Thu May 02, 2013 2:36 pm UTC

I approve on Rep. Johnson's response to this:

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsid ... Grants.pdf

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby omgryebread » Thu May 02, 2013 2:46 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Heh is funny because 'algebra' is an Arabic name, because it's an Arab invention. As is distillation of 'alcohol', and the progenitor of modern science, 'alchemy'.
I think you mean "freedom math."
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 3:12 pm UTC

And 'freedom drinks' and 'freedom magic'. Also all depictions of genies shall be replaced with leprechauns. Sorry Jeannie, but the show is now "I dream of Leper".

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Zamfir » Thu May 02, 2013 3:49 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Derek wrote:It sounds like his problem is with research that (in his view) does not contribute to the national welfare. This would probably include highly theoretical work and "science for science's sake". It also looks like he wants to see less redundancy in research. I would infer from this that he believes that the current system is spending too much money for too little (immediate) benefit.


But mathematicians pursuing their esoteric hobbies in the 19th century is the entire basis of computers in the 20th century. Where do they think linear algebra comes from?

Linear algebra and its predecessors were not developed as esoteric hobbies. If anything, its history is a long list of application-driven developments.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 4:08 pm UTC

It started as trying to find solutions to problems that the average lay person wouldn't even know about. How were linear equations of any interest to anyone other than another scientist? How was it producing practical applications until years after it was developed? Yet it's critical today.

Lots of incredibly important things in math start that way. William Gosset created the table of the t distribution (Student's t) and sent it to Fisher, saying that Fisher would probably be the only person who would actually care.

Saying something is 'pointless' because you can't see the use is rather ignorant. All research has use, even if it's just to show where dead ends are.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu May 02, 2013 5:56 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
Derek wrote:It sounds like his problem is with research that (in his view) does not contribute to the national welfare. This would probably include highly theoretical work and "science for science's sake". It also looks like he wants to see less redundancy in research. I would infer from this that he believes that the current system is spending too much money for too little (immediate) benefit.


But mathematicians pursuing their esoteric hobbies in the 19th century is the entire basis of computers in the 20th century. Where do they think linear algebra comes from?

Linear algebra and its predecessors were not developed as esoteric hobbies. If anything, its history is a long list of application-driven developments.


The amount of seemingly useless and obscure mathematics that were developed to answer real world problems is staggering. My mind was blown when what I taught was the mere "study of graphs" was originally "How the frigg do we actually hit stuff with these cannon things?"

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 6:28 pm UTC

I have trouble seeing many maths as 'useless'. Just that to lay people, they wouldn't care about it until it becomes critical to their lives.

As for graphs, I though graph theory started as 'how do I run across all these bridges only once?'.

I brought up linear algebra because I am unaware of it being used extensively until years after people discovered and refined it, yet is critical for everything we do today.
Last edited by CorruptUser on Thu May 02, 2013 6:32 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu May 02, 2013 6:32 pm UTC

Sorry, I should have clarified. Calculus was described as "the study of graphs" by my high school teachers, which is not only boring but inaccurate.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 6:34 pm UTC

Wasn't calculus invented by Newton (or Liebniz) for the purpose of studying planetary motion?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby induction » Thu May 02, 2013 7:57 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Wasn't calculus invented by Newton (or Liebniz) for the purpose of studying planetary motion?


Planetary motion and cannonball ballistics are pretty close to the same problem.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Zamfir » Thu May 02, 2013 9:18 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:It started as trying to find solutions to problems that the average lay person wouldn't even know about. How were linear equations of any interest to anyone other than another scientist? How was it producing practical applications until years after it was developed? Yet it's critical today.

Lots of incredibly important things in math start that way. William Gosset created the table of the t distribution (Student's t) and sent it to Fisher, saying that Fisher would probably be the only person who would actually care.

Artillery and navigation tables were very early applications, and drivers of a surprising amount of developments. Keep in mind that in the days of celestial navigation, astronomical observations have the same transportation and military value as GPS today.

Eigenvalues were developed to aid in solve differential equations, in particular for the spread of heat and the dissipation of chemicals. The least squares method and Gaussian elimination were developed to tie the geodetic surveys of Prussia and Denmark together, and later iterative solution methods were mostly developed for similar mapmaking purposes. Vector analysis was, perhaps surprisingly, largely developed in response to the Maxwell equations, not as a predecessor of it. When linear algebra takes on its modern form around the 1930s, it's again in response to subjects as structural vibrations, economic analysis, quantum mechanics.

Such fields are hardly less practical, or less of interest to lay persons than modern applications of linear algebra. Nothing hobbyist or esoteric about them. Quite of few of these were even funded by the military.

Then again, few mathematical inventions can beat Student's t-test when it comes to direct application in the interest of laymen. It was developed for beer testing at Guinness.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 10:54 pm UTC

Optimizing the barley production, IIRC. The actual quote from Gossett to Fisher, according to wikipedia, is "I am sending you a copy of Student's Tables as you are the only man that's ever likely to use them!".

Alright, so linear algebra wasn't a good example. As for least squares, IIRC that was developed heavily for, of all things, eugenics; Francis Galton (who coined the term 'eugenics') was trying to determine the heritability of height from father to son, used orthogonal least squares methods on the data, and discovered that the sons' heights were expected to be roughly halfway between the fathers' heights and the population mean. He didn't like the results at all, but rather than throw away the data he just gave it a disparaging name, "Reversion to Mediocrity". This was later renamed "Regression to the Mean".



Just out of curiosity, how few people have to know or have an interest in something before you can call it esoteric?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Sockmonkey » Fri May 03, 2013 10:47 pm UTC

I seem to recall this guy previously trying to block research that contradicted the positions of his campaign donors.
According to his wiki he also sponsored SOPA so he has no credibility with me and can go eat a bag of soggy dicks.

You can't always tell beforehand what reserch is going to be more useful. Nobody knew how many applications lasers were good for when the they were invented.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Fri May 03, 2013 11:34 pm UTC

Sockmonkey wrote:According to his wiki he also sponsored SOPA so he has no credibility with me and can go eat a bag of soggy dicks.


Why do you have against dicks? Some of them are quite delightful.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby Magnanimous » Sat May 04, 2013 5:34 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Sockmonkey wrote:According to his wiki he also sponsored SOPA so he has no credibility with me and can go eat a bag of soggy dicks.


Why do you have against dicks? Some of them are quite delightful.

Have you ever had a soggy one?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Sat May 04, 2013 5:46 am UTC

I thought the point was TO get them wet...

But anyway, anyone behind SOPA deserves to have anonymous plant kiddie porn on their computers.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby rieschen » Sat May 04, 2013 6:43 am UTC

You can't always tell beforehand what reserch is going to be more useful. Nobody knew how many applications lasers were good for when the they were invented.


Mostly for putting them on sharks, right?

If someone really managed to determine a method that could reliably tell scientists before they invested years of their whether or not their research would bear useful or even interesting results, I'm pretty sure scientists would be all over that. This is a little mind-boggling though.

It begs the question of if this guy really doesn't understand what he's suggesting - or if he understands it just fine and just doesn't give a toss about the consequences.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby eran_rathan » Mon May 06, 2013 3:01 pm UTC

rieschen wrote:
You can't always tell beforehand what reserch is going to be more useful. Nobody knew how many applications lasers were good for when the they were invented.


Mostly for putting them on sharks, right?

If someone really managed to determine a method that could reliably tell scientists before they invested years of their whether or not their research would bear useful or even interesting results, I'm pretty sure scientists would be all over that. This is a little mind-boggling though.

It begs the question of if this guy really doesn't understand what he's suggesting - or if he understands it just fine and just doesn't give a toss about the consequences.


Have you ever looked at most of the morons on the (so-called) Science Committees in Congress? Most of them wouldn't know a bunsen burner from a t-square, and think that math is that thing they have accountants for.
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Mon May 06, 2013 3:13 pm UTC

T square? Is that involved in the Crumpet theorem of irregular scones?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby eran_rathan » Mon May 06, 2013 3:17 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:T square? Is that involved in the Crumpet theorem of irregular scones?


...yes, yes it is.

or, you know, one of these.
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Mon May 06, 2013 3:22 pm UTC

Heh, Poe's law

Anyway, it's a shame that most of congress is made up of lawyers. Who knew that being charismatic and having a detailed knowledge of technicalities was so important to being a politician?

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby eran_rathan » Mon May 06, 2013 3:34 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Heh, Poe's law

Anyway, it's a shame that most of congress is made up of lawyers. Who knew that being charismatic and having a detailed knowledge of technicalities was so important to being a politician?


:lol:

I was surprised in reading the background of some of the mindless gits on the Science Committee - some of them were engineers and doctors before becoming politicians, for fuck's sake - how do they fail so badly at science?!?
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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby CorruptUser » Mon May 06, 2013 3:41 pm UTC

My father is a doctor. And he doesn't believe in "macro-evolution"*.

Being a doctor or an engineer is about being able to learn applied science, it is not about research and peer review.


*a bullshit attempt by creationists to handwave how evolution has been proven over and over again, by saying that small scale observable evolution is possible but common descent isn't.

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Re: Lamar Smith wants to change peer review

Postby dudiobugtron » Wed May 08, 2013 2:12 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:The amount of seemingly useless and obscure mathematics that were developed to answer real world problems is staggering. My mind was blown when what I taught was the mere "study of graphs" was originally "How the frigg do we actually hit stuff with these cannon things?"

CorruptUser wrote:I have trouble seeing many maths as 'useless'. Just that to lay people, they wouldn't care about it until it becomes critical to their lives.

As for graphs, I though graph theory started as 'how do I run across all these bridges only once?'

Iulus Cofield wrote:Sorry, I should have clarified. Calculus was described as "the study of graphs" by my high school teachers, which is not only boring but inaccurate.


It's pretty clear that CorruptUser and your teacher were talking about different types of graphs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graph_of_a_function
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graph_%28mathematics%29

The context of 'hitting stuff with cannons' made it reasonably obvious which one you were referring to.
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