Failure: why science is so successful

Today, Chemistry World have published the review of what appears to be a very interesting book that will no doubt interest all chemistry lovers – Failure: why science is so successful.

In his book, Stuart Firestein discusses that half of science is failed experiments and wrong hypotheses, and this is usually glossed over or forgotten completely.

We should not only accept the failures in our work, but appreciate and relish them – a negative result is still a result, and one which inevitably teaches us something and allows us to progress closer to the correct answer.

As a PhD student, I’ve encountered many a negative or unexpected result, and I agree that it would be a boost not only to researchers’ morale, but also the knowledge of our field, if failures were embraced and shared. How else can we learn from our mistakes and move on to bigger and better things?

We’re often told to ignore our failures, or even to hide them, and continue searching for the big break that’ll make our careers. However, this doesn’t help the field move forward, and it only serves to demoralise and demotivate students and Post-Docs whose hard work is being pushed aside and forgotten. I agree with Stuart that failure should be taken note of, and used in a positive way to benefit science and ourselves.


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