Redefining success



At the recent IUGG meeting in Vancouver, I was impressed at observing that speakers are now more willing to reveal the ways in which their research has problems, in place of only showing the results of successful work. Indeed, the hallways of such events are the forums where the “real” science is discussed.

What brought this to my attention was a paper by Bob Langel (National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.), who illustrated the (perhaps temporary) inability to have satellite and surface data modeling results agree to his satisfaction. Such candor is commendable since it helps the more insecure beginning Ph.D.s to remember that all experiments are not successful in achieving the initial “objectives,” but then they would not be “experiments” would they? Reticence in considering such presentations is fueled by the specter of a listener publically pointing out some obvious flaw in the work and the resulting ego damage to the speaker.