deepstash

Beta

Why Scientists Need To Fail Better

A wider approach needed

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 ever narrower details. This approach is turning scientists more and more into a secret society of oddballs, tolerated because once in a while, some gadget or cure drops emerge out of the otherwise impenetrable machinery. This process is doomed to run out of steam, or bore us all to death.

115 SAVES


This is a professional note extracted from an online article.

Read more efficiently

Save what inspires you

Remember anything

IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Why Scientists Need To Fail Better

Why Scientists Need To Fail Better

http://nautil.us/issue/30/identity/why-scientists-need-to-fail-better

nautil.us

7

Key Ideas

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.

Failing better

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 not to stop failing once you've succeeded. Success has to be tested rigorously and considered for what it has not revealed. It has to be used to get to the next place of our ignorance.

A wider approach needed

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 ever narrower details. This approach is turning scientists more and more into a secret society of oddballs, tolerated because once in a while, some gadget or cure drops emerge out of the otherwise impenetrable machinery. This process is doomed to run out of steam, or bore us all to death.

Embracing failure

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. If you are reviewing a grant, you should be interested in how it will fail - usefully. Ask a candidate for a faculty position who has just presented his or her five-year research plan, what is the percentage of this that is likely to fail, otherwise it may be to simplistic. We often don't know what we don't know. The unknown will only be revealed by failures.

Failing productively

  • 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. There is no way to predict which way a failure will turn out.

Failure is data. Failures lead to a fundamental change in the way we think about future experiments.

The failure-averse

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 things will get you along day to day, they are an impediment to science as it is wasteful to have everyone hunting in the same ever-shrinking territory. Now and again, we have to venture out into the darkness where the likelihood of failure is high in order to expand.

Changing to "failing better"

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 ripe for a paradigmatic shift on many levels.

EXPLORE MORE AROUND THESE TOPICS:

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Fail Fast!

In our Success obsessed society, failure is rampant, as every successful person has a string of past failures, and may have been a loser before eventually finding success.

Learning from Failure

The person who eventually succeeds after failing is the one who is using failure to learn, as a feedback mechanism, and applying those lessons in his future decisions.

Importance of Failing Fast

Failing Fast is crucial considering the first lesson of learning and taking feedback from failure.

The speed of failing ensures we take the path to success sooner rather than being stagnated and then having to pay the opportunity cost. 

Our eventual success depends on our failing fast.

Failure

At some point in life, all of us have failed. It could be something as simple as not getting through a driving licence test or something as big as losing in an international competition.

F...

Failure is good in achieving success
  • Failure Strengthens You. Failure can tear you down but it also builds you to be a stronger person.
  • Failure Gives You a Sense of Direction. You get a sense of clarity on everywhere you have gone wrong and how to take a better path to reach where you want to be.
  • Failure Teaches You to Value all the right things in order to succeed.
  • Failure Gets Rid Of Fear. Once you are accustomed to failing you have nothing left to fear anymore.
  • Failure is an Opportunity. It shows us everywhere we might have gone wrong and gives us the opportunity to correct it.
  • Failure is an Experience and could give us a deeper understanding of life and alter the way we look at everything that happens around us.
Admitting Failure

Humans tend to blame mistakes on external events, circumstances and people. Admitting failure goes against our ego, as we think it exposes our incompetence, leading to potential loss of...

Destigmatizing Failure

Recognizing that failure is healthy and a normal consequence of working in a complex environment can help us look at failure as a learning process instead of dreading it. It also helps to let your failure(s) be out in the open, making them visible to yourself and others.

A public failure is a learning for all, as they learn to make errors and take ownership of their mistakes. Openly admitting your mistakes also sends out a strong message of your being courageous, humble and bold.

Admitting Errors 

Many mission-critical work environments report errors and mistakes on time. This is because the employees are allowed to commit and share mistakes, and report them without fearing that they will be sacked. This psychological safety is crucial to a healthy work environment.

It helps to know that failing is an inevitable part of our complicated working life, and aids our lifelong learning.