Thursday, August 16, 2007

Interesting or not?

Scientists can have a hard time convincing the wider world that what they study is important. Who in the general public cares about the evolutionary radiation of land snails? Because of that, I think I assumed that ecologists should "band together" by professing interest in each others research. I mean, I'm generally interested in most ecological research. There are plenty of things I wouldn't devote my life to, but I'm willing to attend seminars of lots of different things. So I was caught off guard the first time I heard a well-established ecologist profess their complete lack of interest in someone else's research. I couldn't possibly imagine myself saying anything that blunt about someone's research.

I've been thinking for a while about why these 50-something ecologists so openly declare their disinterest in some threads of ecological research. First of all, ecology is a huge field. There's no way anyone can keep up with all of the research. They've had years to read the literature, attend seminars, and find precisely what excited them and what doesn't. And I imagine as they delve further and further into their own research, threads similar to theirs are what interest them the most. Maybe it's also a way of setting oneself apart from other researchers. And they're well known enough that they probably don't have to worry to much about offending anyone new.

Since I'm just starting grad school and my research plan is only beginning to nucleate, I'm still in the process of figuring out what interests me most (and what I think is boring). I haven't decided yet how much of my specific research interests I'll reveal on the blog. You'll just have to wait and see :-)

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