Science v. Cooking (or, how not to build a project)
0 comment Friday, March 28, 2014 |
I have spent the better part of a day on the ridiculous stupid new progress report format mentioned in the post where I complain about my Hated Data Set. This new format for progress reports (the thing we turn into administration upon completion of twice-yearly thesis committee meetings) requires a written time line for completion of projects/manuscripts way down to the nitty-gritty stuff like a list and description of all the figures in the manuscript I am eventually planning to submit (yes, all of the manuscripts I plan to submit), including an estimated time for completion on the figures that are not yet finished. This actually very helpful for the manuscript that I am nearly finished with (Anticipated Date of Submission: February 2009)...I discovered that 5 of my 9 intended figures are done and 4 are very close (Estimated Time to Completion of each figure: December 2008). This is good news and it makes me look very organized and as if I know what I'm doing.But WTF am I supposed to write for the "manuscript" that will eventually hopefully come out of Shiny New Project? I have just finished doing some pilot analyses and have discovered that the tools we have really aren't optimal for what we originally intended to do with this technique. There are lots of other cool things to do with this technique (and some not-quite-as-fun workarounds for the original question), many of which I enjoy, but I feel sort of like I do at the end of a long week:What's for dinner tonight?...hmmm, I don't know...let's look in the fridge...well, I've got an eggplant...what can I make with an eggplant?Which is a fine way to approach cooking I think but it's not a great way to approach science. You don't look at your tools and say "what can I build with this?"You develop a question and a hypothesis and say "what tools do I need to answer this?"To reiterate...I need to include in this time line "details" of ongoing projects that will lead to a second data paper. But I don't know what Second Data Paper is going to be about now. The Shiny New Tool for Shiny New Project is not as good as we thought it would be for answering Shiny New Question. Which means that if we want to use Shiny New Tool as the foundational technique for my next paper...we need to come up with a different question...which is a stupid way to do science.But GrAdvisor luuurrrrrrrvvvvvssssss Shiny New Tool because it makes Shiny New Data in Sparkly Video format. [I can just see him rubbing his little hands together and licking his lips...ooooohhh, shiny!]. Therefore, he wants to know what we can do with Shiny New Tool. Now, I'm with GrAdvisor on this one -- Sparkly Data are great (and might land a decent paper in better-than-decent journal) plus I really actually like this Shiny New Technique. But I don't have a question upon which to apply it! Figure 1: Representation of GrAdvisor examining Sparkly New Data.Gah! If it weren't for stupidly overly specific time line format, I could show some of my preliminary Sparkly Data from Shiny New Technique and my committee would be drooling all over the sexy technique and sparkly data just like GrAdvisor does, then explain how Shiny New Technique is not quite optimal for addressing original hypothesis but that it could be useful for getting at questions A, B, and C. They would be predictably impressed by Sparkly Data, enough to let that nebulous "experimental plan" slide for a bit until I can develop it into something better.And for the record, I think that requiring a detailed list of figures for a manuscript that is not yet a twinkle in its author's eye is kind of ridiculous. This project is just learning to crawl right now and you want me to tell you what it will look like when it graduates from college? Give me a break!But thanks to the stupid new format I have to lay it all out on paper, and having done so this project looks like a wild goose chase right now. I'm not excited about the fact that it makes me look as if I have no idea what I'm doing or how to develop a hypothesis-driven project. Ugh.

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