Friday, January 25, 2008

A non-knitting rant

Some of you who've been around for a while may remember that I started this whole blogging thing during my PhD years, and successfully defended my thesis in April (on Friday the 13th, of all days). Since I've moved down here, and started my new job, I haven't talked much about work, but it's been going well. What I do now is a departure of what I did for my thesis, and it's been a nice break to get away from it, having spent 7 years with a full brain on the topic.

This morning, though, I was thrown back in with a vengeance, and I was reminded why I found the topic so interesting, and why it's important to keep current.

I saw an ad for a seminar with a very vague title, related to my thesis, and thought, "Gee, I should go to that. It could be interesting to see if there are actually people at this university who know about my favourite topic." Boy, was I wrong.

The researcher who was giving the talk started off by saying he was new to learning about the field. He then proceeded to try and explain a very complex field using one or two examples of journal articles from people who are well known to be on the fringe. And, by on the fringe, I don't mean innovative or cutting edge; I mean, these examples are widely accepted as wrong, and the science is poor. He presented everything in a wishy-washy, very philosophical way, and thoroughly confused the audience.

Normally, I would chalk this up to one bad talk. The only problem is that there's a huge bias against this field here, and people think that it's all crap and handwaving. The speaker was asked a simple question, and responded by talking about what he felt were "suggestions" and "new theories", for which he had no data. In fact, these "theories" are established, accepted, and supported by a wealth of data, and just a tiny bit of exploration of the literature would've told him that.

I understand how tough it is to venture into a new field, and the simple fact that he is trying to learn is good. I'm just finding it difficult to see him butcher the theories, confuse many many people from several different departments, and basically reinforce everyone's opinion here that my favourite field is crap. I would've stood up to say something, but he was so fundamentally off the mark that I didn't even know where to begin.

Hubby thinks it's hilarious, because I used to get so worked up, and sick of having to defend my science, my theories, my thesis topic, etc. to other people in our old department. Now, I'm chomping at the bit to defend the honour of my former profs and colleagues. I'm thinking of writing to the speaker, and the head of the department, thanking them for venturing into a very controversial and difficult field, but suggesting that they present a more balanced view next time.

If I wasn't nearly 7 months pregnant, I'd probably ask if I could spend the next 3 months putting together a series of seminars myself, trying to get these people back on track.

*sigh* I'm not sure this increased bloodpressure is good for the baby. Here, go and look at cute elephant butt. It'll make you happy.

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