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How often does patience pay off?

  1. Sep 30, 2009 #1
    Hi,

    The scientific approach often requires patience on the part of students and experimenters.

    This contrasts with the commercial mindset, where short-term, high impact phenomena need to be acted upon immediately.

    "All processes need time" we the scientists say.

    "No process moves forward unless you push it" they say.

    OK, this is real-life so sometimes they are right, and sometimes we are right. But does is it 50:50 like that or is patience more often a correct strategy?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Patience always works. If you wait long enough.
     
  4. Sep 30, 2009 #3

    turbo

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    Read up on Thomas Edison. How many different materials did he try before he got some usable filaments to build light-bulbs with? How many man-hours did his lab require to pull that off? Sometimes, being patient and methodical is the best approach.
     
  5. Sep 30, 2009 #4

    Chi Meson

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    Of course that's patience coupled with persistence.

    I've been patiently waiting for someone to give me a boat for decades now.
     
  6. Sep 30, 2009 #5

    Pythagorean

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    People who are too patient with their kids might end up supporting them longer than they'd hoped.
     
  7. Sep 30, 2009 #6

    turbo

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    Did you mean "clueless"? My parents were patient and quite meticulous in schooling me about personal responsibility and fiscal conservatism. I never had a "summer vacation" of the spoiled-brat type since I was 14. Full-time jobs every summer. Of course I wanted to spend some of that money, wanted a car, wanted (another) guitar or amp, etc, but they were pretty adamant that that money was for my education. If I wanted to take on other jobs in evenings or on weekends in addition to my full-time gigs, they would loosen up about the extras, but not much. Eventually, I was earning enough money buying and selling guitars, amps, etc, and playing dances that music was paying for itself, so that was all good.
     
  8. Oct 1, 2009 #7
    gosh, I wasn't thinking of processes like that. Maybe I should have said procedures.

    Specifically I work with a commercial person. To get things done via third parties, he asks me to ring people every day. It's the only way to get them to prioritise you., he says. My opinion is that it turns me into a pain-in-the-neck and raises the risk of the procedure being done incorrectly: which means that we'd have to start over.

    Employing patience may not get these procedures done spcially quickly, but at least they get done right, with no mistakes.

    If that was universally true, being patient would clearly win the contest, but it isn't. Being nice and not ringing every day, well, the procedure may still end up done badly.

    The point is, getting prioritisation also begets rushing. Rushing causes errors.
     
  9. Oct 1, 2009 #8

    George Jones

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    I'm married.
     
  10. Oct 1, 2009 #9

    Pythagorean

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    Naw, I meant "too patient". Patience is fine, but I was taking it to the extreme, which could definitely go hand-in-hand with cluelessness.
     
  11. Oct 1, 2009 #10

    matthyaouw

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    Patience hasn't paid off for me yet, but I'm going to stick with it for a few more years.
     
  12. Oct 1, 2009 #11
    Lets wait and find out. Ahhhh........
     
  13. Oct 1, 2009 #12

    BobG

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    No, patience isn't the best strategy when dealing with a bureaucracy. Typically, when you phone them, they look at your folder to check the status. Since it's now at the top of the pile, they accomplish one unit of work on the folder, then set it down where it gets covered up, never to be seen again until you call again. Each time you call, one unit of work gets done on the folder until, magically, all work on your folder is accomplished. The bureaucrat is happy! It's the first time in years he's actually finished working on a folder! You're happy! Your form for installing a fence by June 13, 1976 is done! And it's only Oct 1, 2009! Yes! A job done in record time!

    Unfortunately, they no longer make the pieces I specified in the folder, but, as long as I don't call to remind them, they won't send an inspector out for another 3 years!
     
  14. Oct 1, 2009 #13
    Agreed, and I'm still waiting for a helicopter.
     
  15. Oct 1, 2009 #14

    Moonbear

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    Now I'm patiently waiting for a raised eyebrow smiley.

    I was talking about this general sort of issue with one of the senior faculty recently. He had invited me to give a seminar for grad students in his department (the one I mentioned the night I was busy procrastinating), and afterward, commented that it was really nice to have someone give a talk that went through a whole series of experiments and showed the students that sometimes you just don't have a complete study until you've done several experiments attacking a problem from different angles. He and I shared the impression that too many papers are being published based on single experiments that are incomplete and inconclusive. I told him it's because young faculty are pressured to publish quantity over quality to get tenure or promotion, and it's undermining quality science. I actually think it undermines the entire purpose of tenure, which is to allow academic freedom, when faculty are pressured to get to specific numbers of publications rather than encouraged to be thorough and careful in their research, even if it means fewer publications.

    He agreed that this is a problem, and not only that, but faculty really aren't denied tenure if they don't meet some imaginary number of publications, but because they are given the impression they would be, the university is basically creating unrealistic expectations of them.

    Anyway, I think that patience does pay off, because you will have a much higher impact, higher quality study when you're done if you don't rush to publish every little experiment that might be disproved later. As I showed the grad students, if I had jumped to publish the very first experiment I did in the series I've done, I would have misled the scientific community entirely, because my later experiments more closely examining the first set of results have shown it is much more complicated than first impression made it seem. I'm now writing the paper on about 5 different experiments, spanning nearly as many years, that puts it all together a lot better. I could have submitted each smaller experiment to a lower tier journal and had ample publications in my CV, but I've held out and now should be able to publish in one of the top tier journals in my field (especially because, in the meantime, a publication in Nature came out that finally clarified the missing piece and makes what I'm doing a much higher impact study than it was without that key information).
     
  16. Oct 1, 2009 #15

    George Jones

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    I'm patiently looking for the deadpan smiley.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  17. Oct 1, 2009 #16

    Chi Meson

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    Hello!?

    Boat?!
     
  18. Oct 1, 2009 #17

    turbo

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    I have a very small aluminum boat and a 3hp Evinrude Lightwin motor. Come visit! Not that far away. I also have an Old Town Pack Canoe and an Old Town Camper Canoe, paddles and gear (you'd need to bring child-sized floatation). Find lodging in or near Solon and wear no fragrances or fragranced laundry products, and I'll try to make sure you have a good time.
     
  19. Oct 2, 2009 #18

    Chi Meson

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    Well what took you so long?:grumpy:
     
  20. Oct 2, 2009 #19

    turbo

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    I don't want to reveal my favorite fishing holes to just anyone!









    Getting a little impatient, were we?
     
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