The importance of stupidity

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

Academics thrive on stupidity. In his article ‘The importance of stupidity in scientific research’, microbiologist Martin Schwartz points out that since the point of research is to find out that which we don’t know, it’s only natural that it makes us all feel stupid. (“if we don’t feel stupid it means we’re not really trying”). Another key skill, I’ve discovered, is being able to justify your actions once it’s too late to change them. For example: your research question turns out to be wildly uninteresting, or just downright unanswerable. How to rework your introduction so it looks like you planned to do something else all along? Perhaps this explains the disturbingly elastic interpretations of what ‘PhD’ might actually stand for: Pound head on Desk? Definitely. Potential heavy Drinker? Indeed. Or, my favourite: Parents have Doubts? (They sure do.)

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