Scientist vs Engineer

A slight aside from sound today, looking at public opinion of scientist and engineers, hope you don’t mind. I’ve been some twitter mining recently, see Headphones vs Loudspeakers, and I thought it would be fun to pit Scientists vs Engineers.


What I did

I collected 6691 tweets which included the word “engineer” and 9166 which included the word “scientist” over 5 months. I then examined the frequency that other words appeared in the tweets with “scientist” and/or “engineer” and plotted it on the graph below. (My previous post has much more detail on the process).

Scientist vs engineer infograph
Scientist vs engineer infograph (click to enlarge)

How to interpret the graph:

  • Towards the top are words more often exclusively paired with “Scientist”, for example “Coldplay” who had a hit song The Scientist
  • Towards the bottom, are words more often exclusively paired with “Engineer”, e.g. “manufacturing” and “pcb”.
  • To the right are words that are more commonly used in the tweets I harvested, e.g. “work”, “time” and “look”.
  • To the left are words less commonly used in the tweets, e.g. “cry”, “recommend” and “box”.
  • The dashed line indicates words used equally often in tweets with “engineer” and “scientist”

Engineers are men?

Time to debunk some stereotypes (or not). In the tweets, “engineer” is more associated with words for men and “scientist” more with words for women. (for example “female” is on the 7th line up from the centre towards the right, whereas “man” is on the 4th line below the centre line). A study in 2003 asked 15-18 year olds to conjure up an image of an engineer, and “Male”, “Beard”, “Glasses” featured in the results. [1] The male stereotype carried on in Twitter, but not the beard and glasses, which were used so infrequently they didn’t even make it onto the graph.
I guess most engineers are jealous of the media coverage scientists get. I bet you could name several famous living scientists but very few engineers. But it’s the scientists who get “flawed”, “mad” and “evil” high on their bit of the graph at the top. When I used a machine learning algorithm to look at whether a tweet was positive, neutral or negative. Overall, there were most positive tweets about engineers (21%) than scientists (18%) and fewer negative tweets (engineers: 10%; scientists: 13%).
Get two professional engineers together, and at some point they’re likely to moan about the status of engineers in the UK, and the fact that the person who comes around to fix the boiler is called an “engineer”. This is why the words “gas” and “heating” appear in the middle of the engineering words. But the confusion over the term engineer isn’t all negative. You’ll notice in the pink the word “creative”, this is generated by a lot ot similar tweets about music production and sound engineers.
Stare at the list of words long enough and parts almost look like poetry: “genetic physics war word wrong report speak god says real change”.
Can you see any patterns in the graph I’ve missed?


[1] An investigation into Communication Opportunities among young people with regard to the Engineering profession. The Trading Edge Co., January 2003
[2] This graph was inspired by Geek vs Nerd, so it is worth noting that both “geek” and “nerd” are more associated with engineers than scientists.

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