Conferences should include sessions about failed experiments
December 02, 2022
Has anyone at conferences ever tried hosting a session where prominent researchers shared their failed experiments?
At conferences, my mind continuously gets blown by the amount of diverse, creative, and inevitably time-consuming projects that are presented. But what isn’t often talked about at conferences are the stumbles along the way. This makes sense - speakers already have such limited time to be able to present the highlights of their successes. But failures comprise the majority of researchers’ time and no success has been achieved without at least the guidance of ideas that worked less well prior.
The sharing of failed experiments and ideas could arguably advance scientific collaboration and progress significantly. I wonder how often researchers give up on ideas because they don’t hold all the puzzle pieces individually, but aren’t aware of a possible solution in someone else’s work because that other researcher didn’t publish it. My bet is that there are challenges that we’re well-equipped to solve as a scientific community collectively if we agglomerated knowledge from everybody’s experiments - both successful and failed.
If anything, knowing another researcher’s results from their previous attempts can help save another person time (often even years!) to not try the exact same thing, or with modified methods.
So, what if there was a session where people just shared their failures? And found collaborators who were eager to pick up work that was set aside?
If anyone’s tried this before and failed, in the spirit of this post, let's hear your experiences.