Failure in science and research is inevitable. Though few scientists talk about their failures, the consensus of a nation admitting to or recognising failures is subpar. Every second a scientist experiences failure in their experiment. However, what many people don’t evaluate is the fact that science, its postulations, theories, and proofs are based on a countless number of failures out of which one success has defined their entire experiment. In other words, as Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Nevertheless, it is evident that failures in science are quite frowned upon. While you may find scientists who are quick to nod their heads at their failures, very infrequently do you get a science process story, one where a scientist will lay out all the ways an experiment failed, and failed again, and failed again, until those failures taught them enough to get the right answer. If you’re reading a news story about science, it’s almost always about the successes—the breakthroughs, the cures, or the mysteries solved. Failure in science is merely a correctional measure, not a drawback.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University, homed in her studies on a piece of article about a scientific experiment published in the reputed Science journal. The journal though never said the results of the original experiments were wrong or even inflated; it said they did not hold up on a second try.
Barrett countered, “But the failure to replicate is not a cause for alarm. In fact, it is a normal part of how science works.”
According to Barrett, science as a theoretical and practical field relies on trials, speculations, results, validation of results, and if not, clues to next steps. She even provided examples and real-life lessons from the fields of genetics, physics, and psychology that failed to replicate to underline how a particular phenomenon may be true but “only under certain conditions” that she recollected from her first-hand studies of famous cases.
“Science is not a body of facts that emerge, like an orderly string of light bulbs, to illuminate a linear path to universal truth,” Barrett concluded. “Rather, science (to paraphrase Henry Gee, an editor at Nature) is a method to quantify doubt about a hypothesis and to find the contexts in which a phenomenon is likely. Failure to replicate is not a bug; it is a feature. It is what leads us along the path—the wonderfully twisty path—of scientific discovery.”
Failure is the stepping stone to success. Scientists and researchers must be appreciated and supported for their failures as much as in success, or even more. Not only is it good for sound mental health, but it is also a necessary and inevitable cause for tremendous success. The failures are a natural guidebook in the procedures of scientific experiments.