Archive for: January, 2018

Hypothesis as a Brand

Jan 22 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

Some time ago I was talking with another PI about a current paper. It builds on some old work I started as a postdoc. I'm pretty satisfied how it has turned out so far. There's just one thing. Way back as a postdoc I posited that a particular variable 'A' was mainly responsible for variation in outcome 'Z'. I speculated about it in my old papers, mentioned it at conferences way back then, etc. Turns out I was wrong. My current work shows more clearly that it's more like variables 'A' through 'F' are responsible for outcome Z. This is not an unusual situation for science. Turns out it was more complicated than I thought. So, I got it wrong but now I have a better idea of what is going on. We're making progress. Yay.

Other PI furrowed her brow. "oh no! don't say that you were wrong."

In her estimation your brand as a researcher is about what hypotheses you support. Not a general theoretical view, not a reputation for rigorous work, or anything like that. Pick something you think is true and stick with it. Here the worst out come is being wrong. Not uninterpretable data, or no data. Other PI is not alone in her attitude. I've heard similar from a few other senior researchers.

Think about structuring your career about never being wrong. About some thought you had as a 2nd year postdoc having to be correct. Sounds stressful but I think some well known folks in my field see it that way. This came to mind because of the back and forth about researchers being "attacked" about work supporting their hypothesis (e.g., stereotype threat, social priming). I wonder if some of these researchers see their brand as a specific hypothesis being correct. That would make any critique of the data supporting the hypothesis feel pretty stressful.


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