Five reasons research rocks!
1 August 2011 8 Comments
Sometimes, I have a bad day. Last Thursday, for example. It started badly, with a meeting where I had to defend what I was trying to do. It ended badly, with a meeting where people who understood what I was trying to do gave me really stupid reasons why I shouldn’t do it.
Last Thursday was an exception. Most days, I love my job.
1. Researchers are nice people.
Thesis Whisperer has taught me that supervision relationships can be fraught, and research is one long, slow argument. There are always a couple of people in any area that you won’t get on with but, generally, researchers are people I like.
In part, I like them because they are like me. In part, I like them because they are smart, forward-thinking people who are passionate about what they do.
Mostly, though? I like them because they tell me interesting stuff.
2. Ideas are wonderful things.
If you want to grab my attention, tell me something that I don’t know. Not some trivial thing – something that helps me to understand the world around me in a new way. Tell me an idea. Tell me stuff: Interesting, fascinating, cool stuff.
Ideas are the stuff of which research is made. Ideas are the currency, the building blocks, the glue. I like ideas.
3. Research helps.
Being open to new ideas is one of my mantras. I work with artists, designers, educators, architects, ad policy makers and planners. These are people who are often open to new ideas. They are usually tackling big problems, hefty questions and trying – in their own ways – to make the world a better place. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. What matters most to me is that they are trying. They aren’t just marking time and waiting for things to happen to them; they are engaging with the world and trying to improve it for everyone.
4. Research is collaborative.
Occasionally, a lone researcher makes a critical breakthrough that changes everything. Mostly, research is cumulative, with each project building upon ideas that came before. Most projects only make a small contribution to progress, adding a tiny amount to the sum of all knowledge.
That means that researchers have to engage: they have to engage with other people’s ideas, and with the world around them. Mostly, it is a team sport with a varying number of people on the team, depending on your discipline, and the teams are getting bigger.
5. Research isn’t business.
I don’t mean that in an “all business is bad” way. I mean that research isn’t constrained by the same laws that business is. Think about this: if a business deliberately collaborates with another business to gain control of a particular market, they are breaking the law because most people lose in that situation. If researchers collaborate together to crack a problem, they are encouraged and applauded because they have improved their chance of solving that particular problem.
This means that it is reasonably common for a researcher to write to a stranger saying, “I like your approach. Here is what I am doing in this space. Let’s talk.”
I like that. What do you like?