Friday, March 24, 2006

Get rid of bad and mediocre researchers

I am sorry for the emotional title. I have come to the following two conclusions:

1) Bad or mediocre researchers are much worse than not having them at all. Often, any extra help even if not-very-skilled is welcomed. For example, in charities everyone can contribute towards the success of a charity, and tasks are often allocated by ability. And if not, this happens the next time around when new tasks are assigned and people have complained. But in research, you need two good scientists to undo the work of one bad or mediocre researcher. Not only do they not contribute towards advancing our knowledge, in fact they actually destroy knowledge. By producing one flawed article after the other, the research field is flooded with much useless, distorting and misleading information. I read so many studies on PDS, and I often find it hard to judge whether I can trust the results or not... This takes a lot of time, and is often inconclusive as I was not present at the experiment. Finally, bad or mediocre researchers often go or are pushed into managerial roles (often aided by superior political skills and self confidence as opposed to the good but nerdy scientist), which makes the situation even worse. Now, they have power and money to conduct bad research, and flooding the field and conferences with confusing ideas...

2) Often I read articles written by people who are clearly intelligent but completely miss the point as they lack the necessary insight. It is often not their fault. It is just that their education had not exposed them to the right experiences to be a good scientist, they lack mathematical understanding or good people from whom they can learn by discussing their ideas. They are like the victorious warrior, and then you have point out to them: Yes, congratulations, you have conquered the fortress, but it is the wrong one. They are not our enemies but stayed neutral. So we wasted 3 weeks of our time, 100 soldiers, but gained their eternal hatred. This is especially true for some therapists who turned researchers. They are clearly intelligent, but mixed with the wrong people and education (for being good researchers that is and not for being a good therapist).

OK. That's enough science jingoism from me. :-)

3 comments:

Einar said...

Wow... Which "solution" would you suggest for these kind of scientists then, exile or death penalty... ;-)) I guess there'd be very few scientists left then... ;-))

Carl Joakim Gagnon said...

Tom,

I've checked your blog a few times in the last months. I'm interested in many of the same questions you are, and think understanding how the brain works is going to be the biggest thing since agriculture, and not only for stutterers. I'd like a post on how you see the general relation between neuroscience and that oldest guide to how the mind works, introspection. Surely the only way to even design and understand experiments is coming at them from both angles? Anyway, a post on that would be interesting.

On the specific question of stuttering, I've often noticed (through introspection) that when my mind races and I have a hard time focusing, I stutter; when I force myself to say one-word-after-another, cancelling all blocks with great deliberation, I seemingly stutter more badly for the first seconds, and then, if I allow my mind to slow down and go into synch with my speech, I'm completely fluent. This is all at a very slow pace. If I continue with that, resisting my extremely strong urges to lose focus on a single thought-process, and see each word in my mind before I say it, it becomes easier within a few minutes, and I can speed up just a bit. If I continue this with various strangers throughout the day (also using breathing techniques), I'm almost completely fluent by the end of the day. The urge of the mind to skip back into its default, unfocused, stuttering "track" remains, but will presumably lesson or go away with time.

So that's the introspection side of things. Any way to relate that first-hand report to neuroscience (to approach the problem from the other angle)?

All best,
Carl

Michael said...

Tom, I agree on your opinion about bad or mediocre researchers, but how many reaseachers think that they did something good and in fact it was just an attempt which is honestly speaking rubbish - but upto that time it was right for them. I have made this experience with myself - so I the results were clear and could be proved , but the original data was not really suitable for the whole case study - which I came to know only two years later (after several talks, papers etc. - fortunately no-one died, I am just a cartographer :)) ... so it is not that easy ... Sure, there are scientists who cheat on purpose but that is not the majority I believe (I might be wrong in that but anyway ...) ...

Carl,
introspection is the best way of understanding stuttering since we are all different from each other - what may be right for you might be like that for Tom, Einar or me. Modern Science and also Neuroscience is only a method to get things approved which you might already know deep inside - so don't wait for them, it may take you interesting years of your life :)

Michael (http://dresden-calling.blogspot.com)