A while back ago a former classmate of mine, who is also a PhD student at KI, was complaining on Facebook that her research wasn’t going forward. She had spent years on doing countless of experiments for a project that didn’t give any positive data. As you can imagine she felt much stress and frustration. Everyone who is or has conducted research is very familiar with these feelings.
As I was watching her complain, it reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld. For those who don’t know what Seinfeld is, it was a popular American sitcom that revolved around the lives of four characters: Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer. In this specific episode, George was complaining about his miserable life. Every decision he had made and every instinct he has had during his life was wrong. In order to change this miserable life he was living, he decided to do something drastic. He decided to do the complete opposite of what his instinct told him. Guess what? He began to see some positive changes in his life.
A 3 minutes scene of George complaining about his miserable life and decides to do the opposite.
Remembering this Seinfeld episode made me think that maybe this is something scientists should do? When scientists want to prove a hypothesis we do a set of experiments that we have planned in advance. The decisions we make on what experiments we should do are based on a number of factors such as literature studies, discussions with colleagues and a lot of thinking. Even though we do all this, we often still get negative data. This occurs very often to the extent that we feel a huge frustration but at the same time accept it. It’s part of being a researcher. My professor even said that if one of his students presented too much good data, he would get suspicious. But how can we reduce these frustrating things to occur so often? A wild thought, instead of doing the experiment that we think are the most appropriate to do, why not try to do the experiment that seems less appropriate? We might be pleasantly surprised. It worked for George, why shouldn’t it work for us? Okay I know this sounds very unintellectual and that it’s easier said than done, but hey, research is about exploring new things right? So why not exploring new ways on how to do research? 😉