Sunday, 6 June 2010

Moral ideas and academic dilemmas?

Sometimes a good question is worth more than an answer, especially if no one has ever posed that question before. The question is even more powerful when a new piece or pieces of evidence spur that shift in thinking. The moment the ‘penny drops’ and a question formulates in your mind, the heart begins to race, with the mind not far behind. Hopefully the latter catches up with the former sooner rather than later, as many a dumb word has been spoken in haste.

I was in this exact same place a few days ago. Sat in a room, surrounded by my peers, talking shop. A body of new work was being presented and dutifully I scribed away questions to pose the presenter…after the presentation, the hierarchy of questioning was carefully passed around the room. As I sat and listened, some of my questions started to merge, forming more rhetorical questions… but one such chimera jumped off the page. My heart racing, I looked up… as what happens next can take a variety of courses… each plotting a very different outcome, albeit science will hopefully be done. Do you A) keep your mouth shut and keep the idea to yourself? B) Ask a few probing questions of the group to make sure you alone have this idea nestled in your own mind, C) State your question/hypothesis to the gathered throng…leaving nothing out from your initial thoughts. The last approach, throwing all caution to the wind, is the one I chose. I knew all the academics in the room, including the presenter, and realised quickly that cooperation was the only way forward. This is approach is no stranger to my research group and I, as we have found that bearing your cards can yield splendid scientific returns.

As for the dilemma, of what to do? I strongly feel there is no dilemma if the science is truly the reason why those present are employed in what they do. This should take precedence over ego, territories and other such factors.

As for this new idea…well, hopefully in the next few months we will be able to publish another piece of the puzzle of the dinosaurs and their world. As for today…I’m en-route to the UK…it is time to grade exams. Hurrah………