Hype does not breed breakthroughs; it breeds more hype

Post title - LIONblog

Image from zapatopi.net/labs

After some years of experience with submitting projects for different funding agencies, and, on the other side of the boundary, reviewing projects submitted by other colleagues, I find the comments by Bertrand Meyer about incremental research versus paradigm-shift mania particularly inspiring and refreshing.

Being told that they have to be Darwin or nothing, researchers learn the game and promise the moon; they also get the part about "risk" and emphasize how uncertain the whole thing is and how high the likelihood it will fail.

By itself this is mostly entertainment, as no one believes the hyped promises. The real harm, however, is to honest scientists who work in the normal way, proposing to bring an important contribution to the solution of an important problem. They risk being dismissed as small-timers with no vision.

Some funding agencies have kept their heads cool. How refreshing, after the above quotes, to read the general description of funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation7: "The central criteria for evaluation are the scientific quality, originality, and project methodology as well as qualifications and track record of the applicants. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis."

In a few words, it says all there is to say. Quality, originality, methodology, and track record. Will the research be "groundbreaking" or "incremental"? We'll find out when it's done.

Long live incremental research! Long live serious researchers with their feet on the solid ground.