Scientific Progess Is Built On Failure

When you go first, how do you know what process to follow?

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Date Added: 
May 2019

Relationship to Ambiguity

In the Nature article "Scientific Progress is Built on Failure," author Eileen Parks writes about how embarking on a challenging venture requires exploring uncharted territory.

There is no step-by-step guide on how to succeed if you are investigating or creating something new.  This is very intimidating, since it by definition, full of ambiguity where the right pathway or answer is never clear.  

In such circumstances, the fear of failure at the project goal can be debilitating. This article explores how "failures" are natural and part of a path to success, and that "failure" or unexpected/unwelcome results should not be feared, but recognized as important.




As a current PhD student myself, this article really hit home.  I think it will be encouraging to other students pursuing academic research.




This article obviously speaks to PhD students directly, but I think its message is much broader than that, and should be read by anyone interested in a career in the sciences in particular.

Anyone who wants to be on the cutting edge of discovering something truly new, whether in design or organic chemistry, needs to accept that there will be far more dead ends and failures than successes.  That's the price (and the reward) of working in ambiguity.

Design Abilities Used

Running experiments requires an appetite for a constant feedback loop, which exercises all these abilities. Synthesizing Information so that you can calculate your next experiment or move is probably the most important.


Submitted by:

Kerry Betz
Kerry Betz
PhD Student in Chemistry, Student

Design Abilities Used

Learn from Others (People and Contexts)
Experiment Rapidly
Design Your Design Work
Learn More about Design Abilities 


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