The importance of stupidity in scientific research

I recently read a very interesting essay entitled "The importance of stupidity in scientific research" and I wanted to share it with you. The author observes that feeling stupid is an essential aspect of research, because you are supposed to understand something that nobody currently does (as opposed to trying to solve a very difficult exercise). That might be why many very good PhD students feel discouraged, because they don't realize that feeling stupid means you are probably doing something valuable! Here is a quote that inspires me as a PhD supervisor:

We don't do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid

Have fun!


2 réflexions au sujet de « The importance of stupidity in scientific research »

  1. I totally agree with you Romain! I've also read this paper a while, and i also found it very interesting. And i think we can even generalize it to the importance of stupidity in life! As a PhD student, i would like to rephrase your quote:
    We don't do a good enough job of learning from our advisor how to be pointlessly intelligent


  2. Romain,

    It is sad but undeniably true that much of the classroom and administrative flotsam the surrounds scientific education and practice is both a hindrance and something that is here to stay. In much of the first two years of graduate school, grades assess the ability to regurgitate facts sometimes arcane in the fashion of an intellectual bulimic. Mark Twain once said: "Never let school get in the way of a good education."
    The idea of projecting five to ten years in the future with imagined precision as in grant applications is ludicrous. Yet, how else to fund science in a way that is as sustainable as this and acceptable to the policy-makers?
    Interestingly and in closing, this article recalls one of the last lectures given by Richard Feynman. In that lecture, he claimed that the defining feature of a scientist was his comfort with both his and the world's ignorance. In that vein, we truly do not know what we do not know.

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