03 August 2012

Inexpert advice aiding expert research.

I had some sudden flashes of brilliant SCIENCE while driving to a friend's house for dinner last night. Upon arrival, I spent a few moments jotting these thoughts down while he finished cooking. I started grumbling about a few things not making sense. He told me to talk him through it.

My friend is not a biologist, but he is knowledgable and clever, and interrupted me frequently as I talked to ask questions or make comments. Is that assumption valid? That train of logic makes sense. I didn't have all the answers I needed at the end of the process, but I certainly understood the problem better.

A few moments of an inexpert but willing brain was productive and interesting time spent. I was reminded of the time I spent in graduate school with a group of students who, although not researching the same topics, still frequently conversed about out research and pitched ideas for experiments. As scientists, we settle into our intellectual niche and sometimes find it difficult to break out of this very specific area of expertise. We can help each other by offering a bit of insight from a different perspective, and we can help ourselves by asking for this assistance.

We can't possible know the small, minute details of all areas of science. We can, however, use our training in critical thinking and logical reasoning to process even very disparate research topics. The process of scientific research is nuanced in different fields, but even these small variations can inform our own research. There is no shame in talking about problems that don't quite make sense. There should be no pretentiousness in our responses as well.

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