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What the heck is research anyway? The annual holiday post

December 23, 2012

Happy holidays, readers! Today, of course, is the day to gather around the aluminum pole with friends and family and air your grievances. And here at The Hardest Science I am adding a holiday tradition of my own to help that process along. So sometime after the fifth “it must be nice not to have to work over your long break” but before someone pins the head of household so you can all go home, gather together all your non-academic loved ones and read this to them aloud:

What the heck is research anyway?

by Brent Roberts

Recently, I was asked for the 17th time by a family member, “So, what are you going to do this summer?”  As usual, I answered, “research.”  And, as usual, I was met with that quizzical look that says, “What the heck is research anyway?”

It struck me in retrospect that I’ve done a pretty poor job of describing what research is to my family and friends.  So, I thought it might be a good idea to write an open letter that tries explaining research a little better.  You deserve an explanation.  So do other people, like parents of students and the general public.  You all pay a part of our salary, either through your taxes or the generous support of your kid’s education, and therefore should know where your money goes.

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