Thursday, November 24, 2005

Some Days You Just Want to Know

A half dozen or so questions bounce around in the shadows of my mind. I am a scientist, so I am busy properly designing research experiments to address those questions. Several talented young undergraduates working in my lab have joined the fight. This provides the fun of mentoring while doing. Often their questions have to do with why we're doing what we are doing.

Mostly the answer is because we are trying to be good scientists. But the truth is that I have become jaded by the peer review process. Too many good ideas have been hammered by too many small thinkers. Many talented reviewers help progress science, but it seems that the talented ones that I draw know very little about my type of work. Most of my true peers are either co-authors or are so closely connected to the Indiana Mafia that they are not selected to review.

So I find myself spending quite a bit of time anticipating and fending off future reviewer complaints. These days I feel more like an attorney than a scientist. I am too busy crossing i's and dotting t's.

Don't get me wrong. Experiments center around control, and I welcome this control. But too often I find myself controlling the irrelevant. In the latest experiment, I will probably run an entire experiment for what would have been a pre-test passed around the lab a year ago.

However, we may be daunted, but we progress nonetheless. The business of ideas cannot be halted by small-minded would-be bureaucrats. Some days you just want to know the answer to your questions. You don't want to wait a year.


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