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Difficulty in Communication of Research and Innovation

 
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I think that effective science communication is one of the difficulties of doing research.

What challenges have you faced in communicating your research to other scientists/engineers? to other innovators? to the general public?

Why do you think these challenges occurred in communicating your research?

How do you think research and innovation could be explained better to others?

What do you think you could do to improve communication of research and innovation?

What do you think others could do to improve communication of research and innovation?

Who do you think are good role models of effective communicators of research and innovation?
 
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Most people, and this includes scientists and engineers, will only allow themselves to see things that exist right in front of them.   They lack the ability to comprehend things that do not yet exist.  

They can see what is.  They cannot see what can be.  They work very hard to not understand.  It is a rare person that chooses to try to understand.

The best tool to persuade, is to have the object exist.   And even then there will be a lot of people that say it isn't so.
 
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The way IP and patent laws work, the people who are true innovators have to limit communications outside their bubble or risk losing IP coverage.  Of course the best ideas and most prudent approaches come from groups of people working toward a common cause.  It's kind of rare to have a group of the best in a field that can work together because of group boundaries.

It's easier to communicate things that are for fun or that have no clear path to commercialization.

Besides that, writing papers and patents is a soul-draining endeavor for many of us

 
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Dave Burton wrote:I think that effective science communication is one of the difficulties of doing research.

What challenges have you faced in communicating your research to other scientists/engineers? to other innovators? to the general public?

Why do you think these challenges occurred in communicating your research?

How do you think research and innovation could be explained better to others?

What do you think you could do to improve communication of research and innovation?

What do you think others could do to improve communication of research and innovation?

Who do you think are good role models of effective communicators of research and innovation?



I invent as a hobby and have no trouble communicating my product ideas because I build working prototypes which speak for themselves. I also self-fund my own ventures which sets me free from begging for money from others. (that's so demeaning) I enjoy the experience of exercising complete autonomous control over the whole production pipeline from concept to finished saleable product. I get immense personal satisfaction from innovating.
 
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I have found 2 answers for you:

1.  Each topic in each field of science has it's own language and knowledge base.  To communicate your findings to your audience (in particular, the layman) requires the inclusion of adequate background & explanations (of words used).  This often transforms (what started as) a single topic into multiple topics and the reader can get lost or overrun with information.  There is only so much a person can learn (or grasp) at one time.  The original information gets lost in this process - or interest wavers to something else.
2.  The peer-review process requires multiple individuals with high knowledge of the discipline assess the work (to assure credibility & accuracy).  If this is not done, there can be no assurance that the work is factual and the methods solid.  This process is time consuming and dependent on being able to access individuals with enough knowledge in the field.
 
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How would you define effective scientific communication?
 
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I translate and edit scientific/medical research for publication, and in my experience many researchers have research ability or writing skills, but only one. Which is fine, that's what they pay me for.
The real issue I see is the current state of research publishing- predatory journals, "cattle trading" of pet topics and old-boys-clubs of people publishing and citing each other in a great big cycle of favors. Meanwhile outside the centers in Europe and the US scientists can't tell the good journals from bad, and often pay to publish; I often feel like they don't have a chance. At the same time, research from the third world is often pooh-poohed for being published in less prestigious periodicals.
There are some changes afoot though in terms of new publishing schemes, open research and data access, and large-scale rejection of the old guard (U Cal boycotting Elsevier, for example). Maybe it will start to change things.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:Most people, and this includes scientists and engineers, will only allow themselves to see things that exist right in front of them.   They lack the ability to comprehend things that do not yet exist.  

They can see what is.  They cannot see what can be.  They work very hard to not understand.  It is a rare person that chooses to try to understand.

The best tool to persuade, is to have the object exist.   And even then there will be a lot of people that say it isn't so.



People are limited. We each try to encapsulate everything we wish to learn within the bounds of our intellect, however advanced or limited. We keep what we can and essentially discard the rest, whether we mean to or not. We're essentially throwing thought shit against the wall of our brain, and we keep what sticks.

Paul describes not only a blindness, but a categorical rejection of knowledge outside peoples' specific scopes of instruction and study. I think this is an unnecessarily skeptical and cynical version of what is going on. This assessment doesn't necessarily miss the mark all the time, but it's an oversimplification in my view that implies malice on the part of those trying to reason which I find less than constructive.

What was that old axiom? Never attribute to malice what can be more easily explained by incompetence. In the quest to streamline research and development, understanding can be pared down to meaninglessness, to the point where it has no bearing on other fields of study because it is too focused or specific.

And yes, this tendency to lose meaning can be used maliciously, reducing the argument to absurdity first, and then selling falsehood as fact for profit. This is not in dispute.

But if the goal is to communicate research and innovation, and not to create difficulties in the communication of research and innovation, it is necessary to embrace the objective more than is often done, largely for reasons of ego, and because it feels better to get a jab in than to actually identify the root causes of the problem being discussed.

Yeah, often technical jargon doesn't jive, and that embodies an intellectual component that represents a solid barrier to effective interdisciplinary communication. Does that mean interdisciplinary study doesn't work, or that to discuss ideas from different fields, we need to reduce arguments to a level of simplicity that obviates all utility? No it doesn't, in my opinion.

So to ignore needless insinuations about the lack of integrity of anyone in a specialised field, I will refer to this communication and conceptualisation barrier as "blindness," as with a blind spot.

I attribute this "blindness" or "lack of imagination" to specialisation. Each educational path has blind spots, usually created by the assumptions under which we reason.

Yes, right here is where that little ditty about assume making an ass out out you and me comes in. It's about as useful here as ever it was, which is to say, not at all.

When we reason, or hypothesize, to use more precise terminology, or when we debate, to take a language-specific example, we first have to set out our bases for that reasoning, meaning we have to break down why we think what we think, and what we mean by the use of specific words.

Specialist fields cut this process down by developing technical shorthand, which eventually develops into technical language (jargon) specific to those fields. Some may use words that, outside of the context of those fields, will have more generically applicable definitions, like the word "Theory," which has specific meaning in the discussion of science, but loses that specificity when being used outside of that context.

So the purpose of this limitation, as I see it, is to contextualise conversation or analysis to those specialisations, for efficiency of thought and communication.

Now we can easily run into problems when we get our blinders on, and the issues we're dealing with span more than one specialisation. This has become such an issue that interdisciplinary studies as courses of study, either in conjunction with others or on its own merit, have been cropping up at the university level for over a decade now.

But it can be worked around. Without getting into detail, Elon Musk, who evidently has the same propensity for having issues as anyone else, has made waves and influenced a number of specialised fields by going back to first principles, most of the time, or by questioning the assumptions behind the reasoning of whole fields of study. How effective his approach has been does underline the "working-with-blinders" issue present across fields of study being discussed, to my mind, but also shows how it is possible to remove those blinders.

-CK
 
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The biggest thing we have to deal with is "status quo thinking", when we present to our peers something that doesn't follow what is currently accepted as truth or fact, the discovery is instantly and vehemently rejected, usually by people who are considered "leaders of the field".
I have seen brilliant minds crumble from the " Preposterous" shouts at presentations.
I was present when Stephen Hawking Presented his findings (now known to be true) about the big bang starting as a singularity.
I was impressed not only by his work but by his tenacity, he knew he was right and no one was going to tell him different.

I have experienced the same, but like Stephen I expect the jeers and cat calls because I am changing the way the world understands the world.

Redhawk
 
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It used to be the case that to get a phd, you would not pass the orals without an extremely thorough understanding of logic, reason and fallacy.  One slip into "political language" and no phd for you.

It has been years since I have met a phd that can use the word "fallacy" in a sentence correctly.  

I am amazed that we have so much progress today without an appreciation of logic, reason and fallacy.   I am amazed that all schools across the united states don't have curriculum for it in elementary school through high school.  I bounced around a lot of schools as a kid, and I did get several days of exposure in a high school in washington.   Other schools never mentioned it.  

Imagine what politics would be like if everybody had a pretty good understanding of logic, reason and fallacy.

Imagine what a research group would be like with it.  
 
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Dave Burton wrote:How would you define effective scientific communication?



For the most part, we are creatures of metaphor and metaphor is often an expedient way of getting something understood.  In addition, pictures/demonstrations are worth a thousand words, so as has been noted above, showing or illustrating a concept can make it understood often faster than explaining orally or literally.  Richard Feynman seems to have been astute with demonstration to get his point across...within reason, I find that mentoring fledglings is best done with metaphor using concepts initially more tangible to the student and additionally through guided "self-demonstration".  This latter is probably an old teaching tool where rather than *showing* them how something is done, you put the tools in their hands and let *them* do the task under your guidance.  The brain connections seem to work faster this way and are more robust once the learning is done.  In both ways, scientific information is relayed conceptually and in practice.
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:I translate and edit scientific/medical research for publication, and in my experience many researchers have research ability or writing skills, but only one. Which is fine, that's what they pay me for.
The real issue I see is the current state of research publishing- predatory journals, "cattle trading" of pet topics and old-boys-clubs of people publishing and citing each other in a great big cycle of favors. Meanwhile outside the centers in Europe and the US scientists can't tell the good journals from bad, and often pay to publish; I often feel like they don't have a chance. At the same time, research from the third world is often pooh-poohed for being published in less prestigious periodicals.
There are some changes afoot though in terms of new publishing schemes, open research and data access, and large-scale rejection of the old guard (U Cal boycotting Elsevier, for example). Maybe it will start to change things.



This is perfect.  And delicious.  

"The game" has become corrupt.  

But, more than that, with this system, who are we attempting to impress?  And with what?  

In the meantime, somebody can bypass the steps of publication and go directly to making a video that smells a lot like a documentary and show their results.   And then put a thousand dollars of marketing behind it, and now it has been presented to a thousand times more people.   The "peer review" is done by anonymous trolls in the comments, each paid by a different organization to refute anything contrary to their employers positions.  But if the video is made well and has pretty people in it, it will get far better acceptance.

The world is changing.   In some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.  

 
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Does the work of Sepp Holzer fit in here?  
 
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I think an important thing is that when a really good scientist or engineer presents their findings or their position, they never use the word "science".   When somebody does present their findings or their position and they use the word "science" I am reminded of this:


(source)
 
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paul wheaton wrote:who are we attempting to impress?  And with what?


Pardon the indelicacy, but it sure seems like a great big circular masturbatory exercise.

paul wheaton wrote:... smells a lot like a documentary and show their results.   And then put a thousand dollars of marketing behind it, and now it has been presented to a thousand times more people.   The "peer review" is done by anonymous trolls in the comments, each paid by a different organization to refute anything contrary to their employers positions.  But if the video is made well and has pretty people in it, it will get far better acceptance.


We don't even need a "war on science". Nowadays people choose what they want to believe (cf vaccines, climate change) regardless of proof. We are moving from scientific method and belief in facts to the inability to tell fact from fiction, or maybe even a lack of desire for fact and truth-- and more need for faith. Which is an entirely distinct topic.
I used to think that faith and science could live side by side, without impeding each other. Over the last two or three years I am not so sure anymore. Faith has moved from a private exercise in religion ("the purple") to one's own personal view of how the world works, and maybe less of an actual religion per se. My viewpoint may be getting excessively negative on this topic, I'll admit.
Then again, my kid just started her career as a biologist, and I can tell you that there are still plenty of young minds going into science. There has to be hope for a better system.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:

Tereza Okava wrote:I translate and edit scientific/medical research for publication, and in my experience many researchers have research ability or writing skills, but only one. Which is fine, that's what they pay me for.
The real issue I see is the current state of research publishing- predatory journals, "cattle trading" of pet topics and old-boys-clubs of people publishing and citing each other in a great big cycle of favors. Meanwhile outside the centers in Europe and the US scientists can't tell the good journals from bad, and often pay to publish; I often feel like they don't have a chance. At the same time, research from the third world is often pooh-poohed for being published in less prestigious periodicals.
There are some changes afoot though in terms of new publishing schemes, open research and data access, and large-scale rejection of the old guard (U Cal boycotting Elsevier, for example). Maybe it will start to change things.



This is perfect.  And delicious.  

"The game" has become corrupt.  

But, more than that, with this system, who are we attempting to impress?  And with what?  

In the meantime, somebody can bypass the steps of publication and go directly to making a video that smells a lot like a documentary and show their results.   And then put a thousand dollars of marketing behind it, and now it has been presented to a thousand times more people.   The "peer review" is done by anonymous trolls in the comments, each paid by a different organization to refute anything contrary to their employers positions.  But if the video is made well and has pretty people in it, it will get far better acceptance.

The world is changing.   In some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.  



I don't think there's anything remotely delicious about this.

I think the glee people revel in when pointing out systemic flaws is as big as the problem of egos or the profit motive.

What do you call a person who constantly points out flaws, and offers no solutions?

Which is why the position puzzles me, Paul. You always seem to be about solutions. Why cackle with glee at the problems that are actively causing harm and spreading falsehoods?

-CK
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:who are we attempting to impress?  And with what?


Pardon the indelicacy, but it sure seems like a great big circular masturbatory exercise.

paul wheaton wrote:... smells a lot like a documentary and show their results.   And then put a thousand dollars of marketing behind it, and now it has been presented to a thousand times more people.   The "peer review" is done by anonymous trolls in the comments, each paid by a different organization to refute anything contrary to their employers positions.  But if the video is made well and has pretty people in it, it will get far better acceptance.


We don't even need a "war on science". Nowadays people choose what they want to believe (cf vaccines, climate change) regardless of proof. We are moving from scientific method and belief in facts to the inability to tell fact from fiction, or maybe even a lack of desire for fact and truth-- and more need for faith. Which is an entirely distinct topic.
I used to think that faith and science could live side by side, without impeding each other. Over the last two or three years I am not so sure anymore. Faith has moved from a private exercise in religion ("the purple") to one's own personal view of how the world works, and maybe less of an actual religion per se. My viewpoint may be getting excessively negative on this topic, I'll admit.
Then again, my kid just started her career as a biologist, and I can tell you that there are still plenty of young minds going into science. There has to be hope for a better system.



It is my belief that "Religions" came into being as a way to control the "masses" and change the focus of thinking of those "masses".
There is something wrong when a "Religious leader" makes statements contrary to what the "bible" of that religion states as what should be, and those who make up his "masses" agree with him.
It is how we can see the changing thought patterns of people as a whole and it should be scary to sentient beings.
This sort of thing makes one of my eyebrows go up and my lips to utter "interesting", but then I do have friends who liken me to Spock most of the time.

 
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Chris Kott wrote:I think the glee people revel in when pointing out systemic flaws is as big as the problem of egos or the profit motive.

What do you call a person who constantly points out flaws, and offers no solutions?

Which is why the position puzzles me, Paul. You always seem to be about solutions. Why cackle with glee at the problems that are actively causing harm and spreading falsehoods?



Because the people that are moving forward are plagued by people trying to impede their progress.  Half of the people that are attempting to impede have the word "science!" on their lips.

So we find paths to move forward despite the obstacles.  We respect the criticism that comes from wholesome sources, and we need to ignore the rest.  We find new ways to create, innovate and persuade, just as "team obstacles" will find new ways to block, delete and obfuscate.  

When I try to point out that the peer review system is flawed, people call me a liar.  So I appreciate hearing it from somebody that works with it as a full time job.  It strikes me as perfect and delicious.  A breath of fresh air.  Validation.  Let us all embrace that this system is less than perfect.

 
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Nowadays people choose what they want to believe (cf vaccines, climate change) regardless of proof. We are moving from scientific method and belief in facts to the inability to tell fact from fiction, or maybe even a lack of desire for fact and truth-- and more need for faith. Which is an entirely distinct topic.  



The more things change, the more they stay the same.  

I suspect that this statement could have been said for nearly every decade for the last 400 years or so.

---

So the peer reviewed white paper has been put on a giant ivory pedestal.  What appears there and is well reviewed, is blessed, by many, as "fact."   So all you need to do is buy a way to get your white paper made your way, and then buy the reviews.  You have now given birth to a new "fact" to use at your convenience.

Not everybody will believe this fact.  But many are being paid to act as if they believe it.  And most have other "facts" they are concerned with.

In the meantime, people like Sepp Holzer accomplish "the impossible".   The only reason it is "impossible" is because there are "facts" that say it is impossible.  Clearly, Sepp Holzer is lying.  And yet, there it is.  And now there are new white papers saying that Sepp is right.  And the people that called him a liar in the past are now saying "I always said Sepp is a smart guy who never lies."



 
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I didn't mean to suggest that the flaws shouldn't be highlighted, and I, too, appreciate hearing from scientists and researchers in the field whose experience bears out the existence and nature of these systemic flaws.

But there are those who stop at the pointing and ridicule stage to dance merrily around their bonfire of books, taking it as proof that nothing is true, and that there is no fact, and that it's possible to believe whatever you want in it's entirety because it doesn't matter.

This is clearly not happening here, but it is the corollary to much positive discussion on the topic, I find.

I don't think it's enough to simply point out the flaws, nor do I find it useful to use them to tear the whole system down, without having anything else to fall back upon. These flawed systems we discuss exist in the real world, and the consequences of their failure are real, be it from those flaws, or from the systems' disintegration.

Maybe it's possible to use what exists as a framework to support a reconstruction, focusing on the flaws and repairing them, as fine but broken pottery can sometimes be repaired with laquerwork joinery, a la kintsugi.

-CK
 
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I think that for every person that is working toward building a better world, there are 20 people that are working to stop that person.  And 16 of those people are sure they are being "helpful."  

And for permaculture, the number 20 might be closer to 100.

 
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paul wheaton wrote:Does the work of Sepp Holzer fit in here?  



I think Sepp Holzer definitely fits in this discussion. I think Sepp is an awesome innovator, and I think the troubles he encounters with the acceptance and understanding of his work is a good example of how hard it is to get very advanced research and innovation to be effectively communicated.

How could ideas that we think are good be explained better, in a manner that promotes acceptance of said idea  than outright rejection for possibly seeming crazy?
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I think that for every person that is working toward building a better world, there are 20 people that are working to stop that person.  And 16 of those people are sure they are being "helpful."  

And for permaculture, the number 20 might be closer to 100.



I had not considered that number, perhaps that is why I don't identify myself as a permaculturist. I have enough trouble getting farmers to listen well when they know me as a soil scientist.
 
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I was thinking about this today while I went about my errands. My vision is obviously skewed, as my experience is entirely on the ivory tower side, and I see a lot of the negative, and it comes across like I`m some harbinger of doom. But even despite predatory journals, there are new mechanisms like gold open access that can help voices from other parts of the world be heard, as can information flows and cooperative research between countries.
The other way that science can be implemented is through practical application (i`m moving away from the original topic of communication into dissemination, I suppose). When someone applies their research, it`s essentially "money talks". The word might spread slowly about someone who has come up with new ideas (like Holzer) but those who have seen it up close, and seen it work, will be staunch defenders.
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:..... I can tell you that there are still plenty of young minds going into science. There has to be hope for a better system.



“Western science, following Roger Bacon, believed man could force nature to reveal its secrets; the Sioux simply petitioned nature for friendship." — Vine Deloria Jr.

I truly feel that better system will evolve into being when individuals, both practicing scientists and lay-people, stop treating science as religion.  Results from scientific inquiry point to 'possibility'.....and an enormous amount of context must be considered when weighing the findings.  It is a starting point for each person or group to test the applicability of those findings to their own experience and the validity of the conclusions in their own environment.
 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:The biggest thing we have to deal with is "status quo thinking", when we present to our peers something that doesn't follow what is currently accepted as truth or fact, the discovery is instantly and vehemently rejected, usually by people who are considered "leaders of the field".



Absolutely, Bryant.

Those "leaders of the field" have to defend their turf at all costs because they are totally dependent on government funding for their continued economic security.

Frequently is isn't "status quo thinking" but rather "status quo feeling". To not conform to feelings uber ralles is regarded as heresy because there is nothing worse in a "tolerant inclusive" society than to have people with hurt feelings. To be an emotionally offended victim has become the gold standard for it virtue signals faux innocence. So alternative views are neither tolerated nor included because people with hurt feelings wield incredible power to censor what does not conform to their ideology.
 
Chrissy Star
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Dave Burton wrote:How would you define effective scientific communication?



Providing the correct amount of information for your audience to:
- understand the significance of the info
- be able to repeat it to another person accurately (ie. they understand what was communicated)
 
master pollinator
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Dave Burton wrote:
How could ideas that we think are good be explained better, in a manner that promotes acceptance of said idea  than outright rejection for possibly seeming crazy?



It might be easier for the "second generation" people, not the original innovators, to transmit the information to others.  True innovators often have, um, "challenging" personalities and are going to seem crazy to most squares/straights/muggles.  If they have followers who pick up the new information, those people may be more successful in passing it on, perhaps because it is not their own "baby".

Just guessing at this.



 
Chrissy Star
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Tereza Okava wrote:I translate and edit scientific/medical research for publication, and in my experience many researchers have research ability or writing skills, but only one.



Maybe what you are observing is people who know it's going to you (an editor) and thus don't bother taking it to it's finished state - they have research to do!  Thus, are taking advantage of your presence - because that's what you job is & why you are there?

In my experience (as an environmental scientist) the 2 jobs (research work and writing it up as a scientific journal article) are not separated, the same person does both (actually a group of people collaborate on it) - if you can't handle the format, you don't become a research scientist (you fail from the beginning through your uni degree & certainly can't go on to honours or a doctorate)!

I'm curious, as someone who writes up research, do you have a background research science?  If not, how are you able to understand the topic details, research methods, data analysis, conclusions & recommendations?  I assume you do not review the work itself (a team of research scientists would do this) - it comes to you (the editor) before being sent to the journal?










 
Chrissy Star
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I am a qualified Environmental Scientist who worked as a Research Assistant (ie. Research Scientist in a team of researchers) at Australia's leading water science research centre.  Here, I was able to have an impact on the scientific community through my contributions in my work.  My work went towards the scientific journal articles which scientists use to share information.  Each journal is peer reviewed to ensure the work is true (both the methods & results analysis).  Together, the scientists of the world eek out the laws of the universe and it's applications.   It is a big and time consuming job - afterall, space and time is infinite.

I left this job to pursue an honours, followed by doctorate degree...then got sick & underwent a form of chemo, which threw me WAY off course.  Maybe I will return and get that PhD, maybe not.

Currently, I teach permaculture and plan to have my own research lab open to my students, the permaculture & my local community (landowners & business').  I feel that my knowledge & skills can better serve the public at this time.  We will see if it works, or if in reality - will be too hard for people who have not been trained in the field (both the knowledge & skills).  We will see.

As far as science goes this is all good on a superficial level...but when it comes to something really solid and important = it won't work...I don't have the wealth of information behind me via a global team of scientists through the research journals (the method the scientists use to communicate their findings).  I won't be able to submit any findings unless I affiliate with a reputable research facility.  I guess I could do this?  But for the (relatively) light (scientific) work/knolwedge that goes on with permaculture...I'm not sure if it is needed.  Research is cutting edge, finding & refining what has not been done before.  

But then agian, so are many aspects of permaculture.  Wish me luck?


 
Greg Mamishian
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Dave Burton wrote:How could ideas that we think are good be explained better, in a manner that promotes acceptance of said idea  than outright rejection for possibly seeming crazy?



In my opinion this is impossible.

Once a view has been chosen the person who chose it carries it and all of its consequences with them for the rest of their life.
Only a the objective reality of a genuinely life altering experience has the power to change a view.
 
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permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
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