07 April 2009

Obsessed with process

Behind the scenesI think the late film critic Gene Siskel once said something to the effect of, “A documentary about the making of a movie should not be more interesting than the actual movie.”

I routinely see scientists bemoaning that non-scientists only pay attention to the cool new facts that science generates, and not the process that uncovered them. To which I say, “Well... yeah. That’s how it is with everything. Why should science be different?”

When you watch an athletic event, is it important to know the atheletes’ training regime and diet that allow them to perform on the day? Sure... if you are part of a small number of hardcore enthusiasts. But not for most.

When you see a great performance in a movie, do you care what it tok to get it on film? Admittedly, there are those who love Inside the Actor’s Studio, and I’m one of them, but even without that knowledge, you still have a great performance.

It’s important to respect hard work. But just like not everyone has to watch the DVD extras to enjoy the movie, I’m not sure that trying to tell people that they have to understand all the details of that process of hard work is really necessary for them to appreciate scientific research.

What’s the scientific equivalent of DVD extras? I think blogs are starting to do some of that, and peek into the process for those who care.

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