There has been a lot written about how lousy Microsoft Excel (and other spreadsheet products) are at data management, but the warning sinks in so much more effectively when you can cite an example where the use of Excel leads to an embarrassing retraction. Perhaps the best example is the paper by Carmen Reinhart and Peter Rogoff where a major conclusion was invalidated when a formula inside their Excel spreadsheet accidentally included only 15 of the relevant 20 countries. Here’s a nice description of that event and some suggestions on how to avoid this in the future.

Jonathan Borwein and David H. Bailey. The Reinhart-Rogoff error – or how not to Excel at economics. The Conversation, April 22, 2013. Available at

This Recommendation was added to the website on 2018-04-03 and was last modified on 2020-02-29. You can find similar pages at Data management.

An earlier version of this page appears here.