15 October 2018, 18:00 - 19:30
Whether looking at history, sports or the start-up scene, the world is plagued by survivor bias: we only take note of the success stories and disregard the many people, businesses and ideas that do not make it. To its detriment, science is no different. Prestigious prizes rarely get awarded to researchers who came second and consequently, researchers live in constant fear of being “scooped”. Academia is a high-pressure environment, driven by metrics that do not reflect all nuances and efforts going into research endeavours. In the publishing environment, the fact that null results do not get published leads to publication bias, duplication of research efforts and waste of taxpayers money. In this landscape, academia seems to be composed by a largely homogeneous group of survivors, in particular in terms of gender and race. The key to increasing diversity may hide in the stories of people who barely didn’t make it.
During this interactive discussion event, we want to discuss with scientists and with the public how the scientific community, publishers and policy makers could rethink what failure and success mean in science. We would like to bring forward suggestions on steps that can be taken to recognize failures and celebrate discoveries that do not fit a particular academic research track. After all, many important discoveries, from penicillin to the cosmic microwave background, do not tally with today’s publish-or-perish definitions of success.
This event is part of Cambridge Festival of Ideas.