Instant gratification in research

Hi readers! I hope you are enjoying the new layout of the website- it should now be easier to navigate the blog topics 🙂

Today’s post is one I have been meaning to write for some time and it’s an issue that I face as a researcher on a very regular basis.

Instant answers. Instant results. Instant success. Instant Outcome. 

Our society is developing into one in which a major priority is to decrease the time of fulfilment between an individual’s desire and its gratification.

Have a question? Google is at your fingertips and within seconds you can find your answer. Actually, it takes less than seconds for the search engine to find relevant answers- my last search took 0.47 seconds to be exact.

Want a new product? Get ‘super-fast delivery, millions of items…’ on Amazon. Businesses that offer rapid delivery options are becoming more and more the norm.

Need to contact a friend or colleague? Send an instant message or email. Gone are the dinosaur days when it took weeks and months for your letters to arrive.

The list can go on with instantification of goods and services. With this also comes avenues for immediate emotional gratification. Need to get validation?  Post on social media and you get likes and comments from friends within seconds and minutes, equating to instant happiness.

And so our emotional and mental selves are continuously subjected to short waiting periods before satiation.

But science and the process of scientific research is nothing like this. There is no super fast result delivery service. If there is one, let a sister know already !

With all the instantification around us, I believe this can have some impact on an early career researcher’s expectations and emotional tolerance of waiting periods between experimental questions and answers. And that early career researcher is me. I sometimes find myself rushing for results and wanting answers in one day. But I have learnt that instant gratification in science research should not be sought after, as it is damaging to motivation and mental health.

Perhaps all my justification of being impatient for results being a symptom of the societal trend of instantification is just that- my own justification. It is also possible that my personality is naturally compulsive. But I do want to entertain the idea that societal nudges in our day-to-day life have the potential to influence our tolerance and perception of the slow-going pace of academic research.

So the message here is to be aware of these pressures and to consciously train yourself to have patience as a researcher. Whether that be with yourself, your experiments or with your colleagues. If you’re falling into a frenzied urge for rapid result production , as I do sometimes, take 3 deep breaths. Phew Phew Phew ( or however you breathe 😀 ). Results will come with time and planning. Hasty attempts to get results will usually lead to a fragmented storyline, unclear objectives and an emphasized feeling of failure if the attempt goes wrong.

If you are thinking of getting into scientific research, perhaps by becoming a PhD student, be prepared for some of the the hardest lessons in patience of your life. While discussing this topic with my friend, himself a PhD student in computational biology, he pointed out that the average waiting timeframe for results can vary across fields. For example, he can test and run programs overnight but an experimental scientist in a wetlab will need weeks and even months to fully characterize and know the success of a sample. So this is worth taking into consideration when picking a PhD project-which fields will match your personal level needs for instant gratification?

Once again, thank you for reading! Comments will always be appreciated.





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