Research Problems and Solutions
Scientists face a wide variety of daily challenges, many of which are compounded by the interconnected nature of the modern research enterprise. Research philosophy and methods, however, are not discussed in much detail as part of the standard Ph.D. coursework. Rather, young scientists are expected to learn from observing their superiors and peers—an approach that often defaults to learning from everyone's mistakes rather then successes.
Some of the research problems are very practical and even mundane: for example, writing papers, preparing presentations, or applying for grants. Some other issues might be considered philosophical and profound, e.g., can any branch of science claim superiority: in general? for its implementation of the scientific method? for solving a particular problem? Claiming to even scratch the surface on any of these problems would require a dedicated career. This collection of notes and observations merely attempts to find some of the answers, based on the assumption that the scientific method can help to understand and interpret not just the natural phenomena, but also the scientific enterprise itself.
Interfaces between Sciences
The modern research enterprise is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, which means that the social aspects of science and research have a tremendous influence on the way that science advances. Textbooks on the scientific method usually do not cover such pervasive social and practical issues as publicizing one's work, establishing collaborations, attracting students and postdocs, defending (and retaliating?) against opponents, or dealing with scientific misconduct. Difficult as these issues are in anyone's research, even the smallest problems—whether perceived or real—tend to be amplified when seen across interdisciplinary boundaries. Fortunately, it seems that, when properly applied, the same approaches that lead to better research tend to help in breaking down the interdisciplinary communication barriers. Observing and understanding one's collaborators or opponents does ultimately result in better outcomes for everyone involved, albeit the amount of time required for this approach to work tends to be severely underestimated.