Addressing the right needs for researchers and students

As a Product Manager I always wonder if I am really addressing the right issues for our users. I recently read an article (linked below) that talks about encouraging young researchers to be comfortable with asking questions and diving into the unknown. Great essay titled – The importance of stupidity in scientific research. Please read it. Though the essay is addressed to students following a PhD program, I could definitely relate to it in my daily work.

Some takeaways are –

  1. productively stupid – that is, if we don’t feel stupid it means we’re not really trying
  2. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries

[The author Dr. Martin A. Schwartz distinguishes between being ‘productively stupid’ and ‘relative stupdity’ within the article.]

But perhaps the bigger takeaway for me was this –

How could I possibly frame the questions that would lead to significant discoveries; design and interpret an experiment so that the conclusions were absolutely convincing; foresee difficulties and see ways around them, or, failing that, solve them when they occurred?

This question has to be very common in the minds of students who are new to the PhD program and trying to find the appropriate topic to research on.  It has to be somewhat similar to my job as a Product Manager trying to find an area of the product to improve. What has been done, what has not been done, is somebody already working on this, who do i talk to, what if i have ‘stupid question’, so on and so forth. More importantly, formulate a hypothesis, determine if its really going to be useful and then sell it.

The question on my mind is – Are we really doing anything via appropriate tools and solution to help address these real work flow issues for researchers. Are we really facilitating the discovery of knowledge? Or are we merely repositories that people come and rummage through in the hopes of finding some nuggets of information?

Please read The importance of stupidity in scientific research — Schwartz 121 11: 1771 — Journal of Cell Science.

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