Taner Edis

The Real Scientific Method

It’s time someone composed a slightly more realistic version of Ye Olde Scientifick Methode. Therefore, here it is, refurbished to reflect modern realities:

  1. Think up some project that has a good chance of attracting
    grant money.
  2. Devise a radical hypothesis to explain the (yet unobserved) data, and highlight how it is extremely important to support your work since it has such important implications.
  3. Repeatedly emphasize how your hypothesis alters our perception of Life, The Universe, and Everything. Even better, hint at how it can lead to immediate corporate applications.
  4. Using the grant money, buy expensive equipment, and hire some grad students and postdocs to continually tell you how brilliant you are. Hope they will do some actual work.
  5. Get some results which look promising, but are inconclusive enough to justify turning this project into a long-term research program.
  6. Go back to step 3 and continue refining until you have a solid proposal to extend your grant for another year.
  7. Publish often during this process. Preferably, every small and incremental “advance” deserves a paper of its own. Be repetitious—the number of publications is what counts, not their quality.
  8. If others repeat the same sort of experiment, and get vaguely the same sort of results, band together to form an interest group. Organize conferences where you invite and praise each other. Cite each others’ work in your papers. Call your general results “___’s Law”, where “___” is the most influential member of your group. Lobby for more money, making sure to point out that your field is “hot,” emphasizing that scientific revolutions or commercial products are just around the bend.
  9. If new observations or experiments come along which don’t fit your law or theory, attack them as obviously wrong. Don’t invite researchers who disagree with your interest group to your conferences. Give dissenting papers bad peer reviews in the anonymous review process. Praise their grant proposals as “good” when advising granting agencies, knowing full well that only “excellent” projects stand a chance of getting funded.
  10. If political winds shift and you find yourself defending an unpopular theory, make a virtue of it. Read Charles Tart, and sell your project as such a revolutionary idea that we must redesign stagnating orthodox science to accommodate it. Find a senator who will try and create a new government agency dedicated to your interest group’s work.
  11. While doing all this, go back to step 1 whenever you feel inspired.

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.
—Aldous Huxley

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