28 July, 2009

Let's Have a Duel!

I would like to see more Scientists' Duels.

Kinda like that, but sciencier. Maybe they have rancors attached to the end of those ropes.

Sure, dueling was widely regarded as a vile gentlemen's sport in the 19th century, but that, I suspect, was primarily because it involved rather a lot of pistols, sabres, death, and fluffy shirts*. Nonetheless, dueling was a visceral bloodsport that involved honor and competition. I'm not advocating that we turn to scientific bloodsport** for amusement and funding, but rather that we start competing intellectually. Yes, we as scientists already compete upon the scientific edge, trying desperately sometimes not to be scooped as we race to publish data and inadvertantly grind graduate students' free will*** to dust in the process. But at the same time, friendly, rigorous competition is a good thing as it raises standards and adds a slight sheen of adrenalin to even the most esoteric of topics.

If future Scientists' Duels were to take place in the form of competing research blogging, the benefits would be manifold. Namely:
1) Intellectual competition is fun.
2) Important research is disseminated.
3) An inherent value in explaining complicated science for uninvested audiences emerges.
4) More scientists communicate outside of their fields, thereby increasing their explanatory flexibility.
5) Research gets explained more than one way in each Duel, which would allow those with different knowledge-absorbing patterns to more effectively learn what it means.

I am not explicitly saying that I will take on any and all comers in challenging me to a Scientists' Duel, but I am implying it while trying to encourage others to square off and Duel for themselves.

Thoughts, ideas, encomium, and/or**** excoriation?

*Which I do believe I could pull off admirably, the shirts, I mean, not the pistols. Anyone up for a bout with quarterstaves?
**Like writing grants, but with sharp, pointy things. Come to think of it, an actual duel may be easier, and preferable for both parties, than endless traction of 2 closely scored grants in study section. But I digress.
***That's a joke, I think...
****The English language really needs an "and/or" functionality. "Else" is inexact. Therefore I propse "twick" and/or "andort". The added "t" makes it cooler.


Dave Munger said...

I'm still not exactly sure what you're proposing here. What exactly would they be dueling over? How best to explain science?

Toaster Sunshine said...

Who does a better job breaking down the research through research blogging, winner decided by reader votes (break up 100 points as they see fit between contestants).

learnhexadecimal said...

For and/or, just leave the list unmarked. "Thoughts, ideas, encomium, excoriation?" Context does the talking for you. Very elegant.

Alejandro Montenegro-Montero said...

This is an interesting idea.
Let us know when the next duel is taking place, and I'll be happy to host it (which can involve me giving a brief overview of the article -if in my area of expertise or somehow related-), link to both blog post and publish the results.
Maybe the hosting can go around different blogs, like blog carnivals.

LostMarbles said...

I'm tempted to participate in a duel. I've been in a "I have no clue what to post about" funk and I need to get back in science-writing shape for the school year. However, I'm pretty sure most people in the science blogging world are better writers than I am.

I really do like Alejandro's idea of having a third party host the duel. I'd also love to see (possibly participate in) a duel based on a classic science papers.

wv: waring