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The Personal Side Of Scientific Research

Once, just because an extra sample tube was available, I added a second negative control to an experiment and discovered excellent termite-killing activity in a sample I'd expected would have none. Without that spare tube, I'd never have invented and patented a termiticide. In writing up my results, I did not describe the actual process--including my use of the spare tube--that took me from research problem to research conclusions. Yet I know I am not the only scientist who describes results

Winston Brill
Once, just because an extra sample tube was available, I added a second negative control to an experiment and discovered excellent termite-killing activity in a sample I'd expected would have none. Without that spare tube, I'd never have invented and patented a termiticide.

In writing up my results, I did not describe the actual process--including my use of the spare tube--that took me from research problem to research conclusions. Yet I know I am not the only scientist who describes results in this manner. Reports, seminars, and papers often do not adequately describe the process by which researchers make discoveries.

This phenomenon leads me to what I consider a larger problem in science today--inattention to "the personal factor." To me, science is not just equipment, precedents, research problems, and data analysis. It's also the process of collaborating, of finding inspiration, of daydreaming and arguing, of listening, of having the courage...

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