The Right Kind of Wrong. Or: Using bad practice just because it’s industry standard.

«First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I must do nothin’. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate’s Code to apply, and you’re not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you’d call ‹guidelines› than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.»
Barbossa in «Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl»

There are lots of situations in which an established standard is used, despite better methods being available. Even during my studies, people reported “tried and true” (tried, yes, true, not really) methods instead of better ones, because the ones who did judge the product’s quality (in this case: reviewers of major journals) were expecting the “established” methods.

But yeah, for me it was t-tests and ANOVAs when superior methods were available, for others it’s an established questionnaire that has to be used without any changes — because the reviewers expect it. In other areas (perhaps for you), it’s another obsolete measures of quality the customers expect.

Or perhaps everyone just expected them to be expected, it might be a “emperors new clothes” situation here. That would almost be a best case. Except, how do you convince people making value judgments (which also makes a judgement about themselves) and be honest — and not fear being the odd one out?

And yeah, it might be smarter (in a career sense) to just follow what is “established”, not matter that a deviation from the established would make it better.

But frankly, I think the results are the best argument. And the best results need the best methods. And yeah, there is value in looking at established methods (“Research that’s done in a vacuum sucks.”). But it’s also true that you can’t overtake someone if you follow in that person’s footsteps. And perhaps, just perhaps, they were still trying out when they came up with their method, and didn’t dare to improve it.

So, yeah, to end with another quote:

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.
Seek what they sought.
Matsuo Basho

Amen.

Categories: Community Aspects, Doing Science, General Tips, Improving your Creativity, Inspiration, Learning, Learning to do Science, People, Realizing Creative Projects, Science, Self-Improvement



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