Things that sound good but aren’t quite right: Art and research edition

August 19, 2016
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(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

There are a lot of things you can say that sound very sensible but, upon reflection, are missing something.

For example consider this blog comment from Chris G:

Years ago I heard someone suggest these three questions for assessing a work of art:

1. What was the artist attempting to do?
2. Were they successful?
3. Was it worth doing?

I think those apply equally well to assessing research.

The idea of applying these same standards to research as to art, that was interesting. And the above 3 questions sounded good too—at first. But then I got to thinking about all sorts of art and science that didn’t fit the above rules. As I wrote:

There are many cases of successful art, and for that matter successful research, that were created by accident, where the artist or researcher was just mucking around, or maybe just trying to do something to pay the bills, and something great came out of it.

I’m not saying you’ll get much from completely random mucking around of the monkeys-at-a-typewriter variety. And in general I do believe in setting goals and working toward them. But artistic and research success often does seem to come in part by accident, or as a byproduct of some other goals.

The post Things that sound good but aren’t quite right: Art and research edition appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.



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