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:
- 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.
- 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.