Trust and time: two imperatives of research efforts 1


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Hélène Michel

Leader of the list ‘Alternative 2017for the central councils of the University of Strasbourg and candidate to the presidency (elections of 17, 22 and 23 November)

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Professor in Political Science at IEP – University of Strasbourg
Member of the Institut Universitaire de France
Director of  SAGE – CNRS UMR 7363

On the one hand, there are those who steer research, assess performance and scrutinise every indicator which allows them to justify their decisions. It applies to budget cuts as well as ad hoc aids granted to a particular initiative judged promising. Those want to eliminate any uncertainty regarding the outcomes of their decisions, whereas ‘the innovation’ they advocate cannot be decreed, let alone predicted. Charts, figures, indices and indicators have been increasing and are gradually replacing political orientations. The technocratic view wants results, and quick results: as of next year, the budget and its proper implementation will have to be justified.

On the other hand, there are those who are aware that research is about men and women working on setting problems, testing hypotheses, checking, discussing, exchanging arguments, and submitting their results to the judgement of their colleagues. Those are aware that this knowledge building process is a non-linear process, the final outcome of which remains unknown. Reconsidering evidence, practicing systematical doubt, exploring new avenues of knowledge, revising statements, producing new ones are all key to the scientific inventions. They are also aware that this process must be accompanied by institutions and by the means to enable the conditions which will make it happen. These are aware that research is an activity requiring long time and trust.

Trust is about accepting to not control everything, accepting losses as well as success.

Trust is about letting colleagues take risks, and, as a consequence, letting them make mistakes, grope around, or produce no result. Yet testing an hypothesis and proving it is wrong is still a result, despite the journals which only want positive results. Fortunately there is Data, a journal publishing ‘negative’ results (http://www.data-journal.science/).

Trust is about refusing to constantly have to justify your activities, sometimes even before carrying them out.

Trust is about listening to each other, talking to each other, discussing without jeopardising your career, your reputation, your results.

Trust is about being able to transmit freely and without cost, without expecting an immediate return.

Trust is about accepting that others than yourself can do and do better.

Trust is about giving time for reflection, allowing free and independent thinking.

Trust is about being able to look forward into the long term.

Trust is about giving yourself the means to produce knowledge, even though you do not know yet what it will allow you to think or do in the future.

Those who are aware of that must remind those who are governing us that general suspicion, combined with the frantic race towards fundings, positions, and publications, prevents any scientific activity and ruins our research and imagination capacities.

image: credit to www.moebius.fr

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One thought on “Trust and time: two imperatives of research efforts

  • Namit

    Trust is trusting yourself to go unemployed. When the mentors you trusted abandoned you after 1.5 yrs. when
    The country you fleed to had no more opportunities.
    When after 14 months of unemployment, one starts again
    In a new country with fear, uncertainty, lack of self confidence and self doubts. For what are the alternatives. Even
    More uncertainty and trust. Engaging in science has become
    A trap. It is for the ones who has independent wealth to
    Keep doing what one wants to do.