Tuesday 21 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #7

Seventh day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event — and today had a new bitter reality.


(You can probably cue the theme tune from Big Brother at this point.)

The students from the Chromium Zone have voted and this afternoon at 17:00 Finnish time, the results were announced. Dalya has been evicted! As I discussed with the team members, and as Tom posted on his web log today, it has been a nerve racking time, not so much worrying about our own demise, but because of the team work and camaraderie that had built up between the five of us. To see one of the group kicked out sort of hurt!

It's been great working with Dalya. We are so sorry to see you go!

Right, back the questions. There was no online live chat scheduled for today (just as well, as it was full-on at the KAIRA) site, but there is still a stack of the so-called offline questions awaiting us.

The Top Question for Day #7, posted by user "shivibains" was 'Do the poles (north and south) have any effect on electrical equipment and if so why?'

A brilliant geophysics question, but one that brought home the expert/novice dichotomy of scientists.

Allow me to explain.

For me, I sort of knew the answer. For a change, I'd got to the question first (the other scientists are usually really fast at that — despite my secret timezone advantage). As I typed up my response, however, I became more and more aware of how little I really knew. I was worried about the details and wondering whether it is really the alterations to the magnetic field were the cause... or was it the particles. Or both?

Of course, I had to think hard, go back to first principles and think it through. I want to make sure that I get it right! By the time I posted it, I was feeling like a complete novice. Painfully aware of the inadequacy of my knowledge on the subject, I wonder what the solar-and-terrestrial experts who read this web log would think? (Please post a comment if you can elaborate!)

And yet the responses from the others were all so positive! Does that make me an expert? Or a novice? Is this scientific acclaim? Did I get it right? Are they sure? Or do they simply trust me? And is that wise?

This, in my personal opinion, is a thin line to tread. We have work hard to ensure that we do our very best and maintain the integrity of our endeavour, but at the same time, should we be more critical of each other?

So maybe, in turn, I should be challenging my colleagues to answer this one?

Yet again, the IAS2011 event has shown up an aspect of our work that we often don't consider. A prompt for self-reflection is a powerful tool... as is critical analysis.

Another eviction will occur tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I knew you were cheating with the timezones! :-)


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