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The importance of documenting failure

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The importance of documenting failure

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When it comes to research, the publication process is quite clear in its preference for success.  You never get to hear of the clinical trials that failed or the experiments that didn’t work.  The big journals are wall to wall with experiments that went well.

Which, while nice, does rather deprive those working in a similar field of the opportunity to piggy back from those failures.  It stops them learning what it was that went wrong so they don’t repeat the same mistakes themselves, whilst at the same time of course improving on the process (or stopping the journey down the blind alley).

So the Art of 3D Print Failure group on Flickr is fantastic to see.  It’s a group that invites people to post up images of their 3D printing gone wrong.

This matters.  Remember, back in May McKinsey revealed their list of disruptive technologies, with 3D printing taking pride of place in the list.  With the global manufacturing industry worth $11 trillion, it’s clear that the technology could be a big influence on the world.

Suffice to say, that disruption is unlikely to occur due to the Flickr group, and whilst it provides nice visual documentation of failures, it doesn’t provide much detail as to why things went wrong.

Open notebook science

It’s a process Jean Claude Bradley termed open notebook science.  Open Notebook Science is the practice of making the entire primary record of a research project publicly available online as it is recorded.  He created the UsefulChem Wiki to document all of the experiments he was working on, good or bad, and encouraged others to do likewise.

You can see a presentation by Bradley on this topic below.


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