We had a discussion today with the grad students taking my class on empirical research methods, on the role of blogging by researchers. Some students thought that it was a bad idea to post their research ideas on their blogs, because other people might steal them. This is, of course, a perennial fear amongst grad students – that someone else will do the same research and publish it first. I argued strongly that it doesn’t happen, for two reasons:

  1. the idea is only a tiny part of the research – it’s what you do with the idea that really matters. Bill Buxton has a whole talk on this, the summary of which is:  The worst thing in the world is a precious idea; The worst person to have on your team is someone who thinks his idea is precious; Good ideas are cheap, they are not precious; The key is not to come up with ideas but to cultivate the adoption of ideas.
  2. even if someone else works on the same idea, they will approach it in different way, and both projects will be a contribution to knowledge (and therefore be worthy of publication).

After the class, Simon sent me a pointer to Michael Nielsen’s blog post on the importance of scientists sharing their ideas via blogs. It’s great reading.

Note: I’m particularly chuffed about the relevance of Neilsen’s post to climate science, as the Navier-Stokes equations he mentions in his example lie at the heart of climate simulation models.

understanding the science
Wading into the tarpits

1 Comment

  1. In case you haven’t seen, there was a recent social (blogging) experiment on the possibility of collaborative mathematics:

    http://gowers.wordpress.com/

    The last few posts sum up the experience — long story short is that it worked, albeit not as wide-spread as originally hoped.

  2. Pingback: Blogging your way through grad school | Serendipity

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