Essays

The trouble in comparing different approaches to science funding (Michael Nielsen and Kanjun Qiu)

February 9, 2022

There's a striking vision, now gaining momentum, where we "turn the scientific method on ourselves", in part to help improve our scientific institutions. This vision is exciting, since the quality of humanity's scientific institutions so strongly influences our collective future. It's also challenging: one major obstacle is understanding how to do experiments which figure out what works, and what does not. Informally, we've heard people advocate: "we should do lots of RCTs [randomized controlled trials] for science funding sch...

Research as Understanding

October 17, 2021

I misunderstood the nature of research for most of my life, and this prevented me from doing any. I thought significant research came from following the scientific method until novel discoveries popped out. I'd never contributed something new to human knowledge before, so being a researcher—which required replicating this outcome—felt impossibly far out of reach. But it turns out the novel discovery is just a side effect. You don't make novel discoveries by trying to make novel discoveries. Instead, research is simply a contin...