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Why Scientists Need To Fail Better

nautil.us

Failure is different in science

The quote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” has become a staple of self-help and business books.

But it is also the perfect quote to illustrate how what almost everyone else means by failure is different from what it means in science.

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Scientists should embrace failing better. Failing better means looking beyond the obvious, further than what you know and what you know how to do. Failing better happens when we allow ourselves to ask questions, doubt results, and allow uncertainty.

The way of science is n...

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Many scientists say that science is about a pragmatic approach to putting pieces into a puzzle, and the more pieces you add, the more successful you are.

But this approach is driving science into a corner. We can't keep up with the exponentially expanding literature of eve...

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The alternative to running out of steam is to fail better. Skeptics may wonder how to write a grant proposal where you promise to "fail better," or getting a job with a research strategy that lays out your program for failing better.

Yet, that is the right way to proceed. ...

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  • Recognize that failing better is not easy in the present culture. Pay attention to the failures - not to correct them, but because they make you go back and reconsider your long-held views.
  • Recognize the intrinsic value beyond just correction. Ther...

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It's not just young scientists who have become failure-averse. As you move on in your career and have to obtain grant support, you naturally highlight the successes and propose experiments that will continue to produce results. The lab becomes a kind of money machine.

Although these th...

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This will require the kind of revolutionary change in our perspective, comparable to a paradigm shift.

Revolutionary changes often happen faster than "organic" changes. They may seem unthinkable at first, but once the first shot is fired, change occurs rapidly. Science is ...

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