Putting down METHODS????

Tony Travis ajt at uk.ac.sari.rri
Sat Aug 8 07:51:21 EST 1992

I picked up this thread in methods, but it seems more appropriate to
follow up here:

In article <9278022517.MIN-LJEAa00158.bionet-news at uk.ac.daresbury> you write:
: [...blood boiling comments deleted] 
: > A BIG CHEESE I sometimes hear from puts down methods, saying "I've never
: > heard of any of the people who post to methods.  When I have a question,
: > I call up the OTHER BIG CHEESE and ask him."
: A belated comment on this (which made my blood boil a bit): While
: there is obviously sterling logic in calling the expert in the field,
: what harm can come from also sending out a posting and seeing if
: anything positive turns up??

The entire 'CHEESE' analogy makes _my_ blood boil!

: BIG CHEESES sometimes forget that they were little once (in the very
: *dim* past 8-).  One assumes that they became BIG by having good ideas
: *when* they were *little* which, **fortunately for them**, other BIG
: people listened to and agreed with.  Seems like there is a certain
: arrogance here when one is *only* willing to listen to someone BIG.
: This also betrays a cookbook approach to science.  Do we still
: **think** about experimental methods or do we just **collect Julia
: Child's recipes exclusively**??!!

I totally agree with you Dave, and I wonder sometimes why people seem
to think that _established_ scientists do the best work.  It's much
more likely that the work is done by innovative students and junior
staff who are *little* people in the context of this discussion.

The role of the established scientist is more often to coordinate the
work of the group and place it in a broader scientific context, isn't

Some of the best people I've worked for had very little idea about the
technical details of the work - that was part of _my_ contribution.

I think it is commonplace for a PhD student to be better informed about
a topic than his/her supervisor at the end of the study.  It is
precisely *these* people who can contribute most to bionet because
their ideas are unfettered by conventional wisdom.

I'm not saying that conventional wisdom is unimportant BTW - just that
an intelligent discussion depends upon _new_ ideas.

Most 'BIG' scientists have made their wisdom available in the
literature one way or another anyway, and I don't see the primary
purpose of bionet as a method of distributing 'approved' answers to
questions.  I see it more of an opportunity for us to *exchange* views
about different aspects of science.

Without an intelligent exchange of views, bionet will become little
more than scientific karaoke where the little people sing along to
their favourite BIG scientific noise :->

Personally, I admire people who play their own music.


Dr. A.J.Travis,                       |  Tony Travis
Rowett Research Institute,            |  JANET: <ajt at uk.ac.sari.rri>
Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,            |  other: <ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk>
Aberdeen, AB2 9SB. UK.                |  phone: 0224-712751

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