Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Think About This: There is No Such Thing as Bad Research

But there is such a thing as bad science. That's a different topic though. Right now I want to focus on something I've heard a lot of in my career and even more so in recent days, the idea of scientific impact. If you aren't familiar with the term, then we scientists judge ourselves and others based on the criteria of impact, where a person's research influences many other articles and studies in the future.
The concept right now is antiquated because we judge on potential impact which really means absolutely nothing when you think of it. How is anyone supposed to know what the impact of a study is without having the ability to see 20 years into the future? But yet we judge each other on this and careers are made and broken on that simple concept.

My quick thought for the day is that there is no such thing as low impact science. First you will never know how your studies will influence other studies unless you are working with a huge network of people who are all trying to figure out the same thing. Second even small scale studies are useful to someone, and to me if you can help one other person you've done a great deed that should be immeasurable.

I had a thought about people who could be deemed as low-impact. Our own lab is publishing results of substituting heavy water in for water in fairly common experiments and seeing impressive results. Seems low impact, but it in fact could be super high impact. What if these results lead to creating machines that aren't possible now? No one will know, but one should hold their judgment for later and not now.

I could go on and on about this, but think about this next time you are in a store and see a product. It seems pretty simple and you may not notice a difference between that and the leading brand, but tons of research went into that product to get it to the shelves, meaning someone spent time studying it, and that is not insignificant in the least.

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