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02/03/2012

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Scott Leslie

a.k.a. "just share already."

There are of course obvious barriers to the individual doing some kinds of research "on their own" as you rightly point out - my backyard large hadron collider weekend project got stalled on the drawing board. This is seen by many as a drawback. But flip that on its head - how many one person projects, done with little money and very few people, end up imperiling the planet? Seems like by definition, local, contextual, smaller projects are likely to have far fewer enormous unintended consequences, the history of which modern research seems strewn with.

People continue to confuse "massive" with "widespread." The difference, IMO, is the former clings to an illusion of control and will go to no short end to make sure that illusion is then replicated in the organizations and structures that support it.

Dominik Lukeš

You are over interpreting the intent of Hussite theology a bit - kind of in the mold of the Marxist interpretation of Hus as a proto-communist - the one I had beaten into me during my Czech education. And, it's worth remembering that while the Hussites were ultimately successful, their radical wing - the Taborites - got massacred - by the moderate Hussites.

But the idea of just doing research is a good one. I have been proposing something similar on http://researchity.net. The problem with the funding councils is that they disburse relatively large chunks of money for inflexible, projects with limited scope. Maybe funding that was a bit more flexible is the solution. How about modeling it on the agile approach to software development. Why not fund "sprints" rather than marathons?

Obviously, this should not necessarily preclude the traditional approaches when it comes to funding larger infrastructure-dependent projects or longitudinal studies - but so much of research out there is just too long and cumbersome for the outputs it produces.

I'd propose that Mark Liberman's "Breakfast Experiment(TM)" should really be the most common type of research by scholars in the humanities: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3017.

Martin

Hi Scott - it's a bit more than just share I think, in that you could frame a potential research project in a lightweight and a 'heavyweight' formula. You want funding to do the latter, but could do something with the former. So it's about framing research and deliberately adopting different approaches. Agree about massive and widespread, and control. My LHC project is humming away quite successfully around South Wales, constructed entirely from old lager cans and elastic bands.

Hi Dominik - you came to mind when I was writing this! I thought "I bet Dominik will bust me on this", so thanks for not treating me harshly :) Absolutely agree about a lot of research being long and cumbersome, but also that the two approaches are complementary. We just need to be aware that there isn't just one model anymore.

Sophie Atkinson

Hi,

Do you have an email address? I'd like to send you something from Penguin Books.

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