Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Keep good records, even when bad things happen

I've just spent the day wading through piles of paperwork, trying to compile our tax records, and I was struck by the disorganization of my filing system. It occurred to me that accurate records are important when conducting experiments, too, even when things don't go the way that you originally planned. One of my favorite scientific papers that I read during my graduate school days recounted a sampling effort on an ice floe that was aborted when the equipment was lost at sea. I liked it because the authors were just so honest. I pictured them standing there on a sheet of ice not knowing what to do next, bewildered and amused.

Remember that everybody make mistakes and scientists are no exception. Want proof? Pick up I've Been Gone Far Too Long: Field Study Fiascoes and Expedition Disasters, edited by Monique Borgerhoff Mulder and Wendy Logsdon, to remind yourself that even on your worst days, someone else has been there too.

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