Thursday, September 18, 2008

Discovery Park?

I saw this sign posted a few weeks ago in the building I work in at the Research Park (sorry, "Discovery Park"). Don't worry, it's in the public domain so the author won't mind if I reproduce it here.

Eureka! I found my publications!

I found my publications! Right there. Right over there. Sitting on top of that rock. Behind that bush, where no one else had looked yet.

Perhaps I am merely sensitive, but does the change from Research Park to Discovery Park seem to belittle what we do here?

Changing "Research" to "Discovery" seems to embrace the inexplicable American trend of anti-intellectualism. Did the word "Research" not attract the right kind of students? Was it too intimidating? It does seem to suggest an arguably unfair requirement of effort.

Discoveries, on the other hand, usually happen to someone by accident. To anyone, really, and usually that person was not looking for anything at all. Inspirational, I admit, and not at all intimidating. I expect peer reviews will relax to accommodate this movement: "We applaud your uncompromising resignation to luck, the cornerstone of discovery. You have the most tremendous luck of any of the authors, nee adventurers, who have submitted a paper thus far. Paper accepted."

I am not genuinely angry. I am confused. I am a little disappointed. When looking at all of the signs we now need to replace, I am thinking about how parking is no longer free.

Disclaimer: I have no publications, discovered or otherwise. I read email sent to (email address deleted so the student doesn't get spammed).

This document belongs to the public domain. It's yours.

I don't know how long it's been there. Signs like this usually get taken down quickly, so if anybody in authority notices this blog they will surely hunt down the sign and remove it.

The author has a good point though. "Discovery Park" is a weak name. It sounds almost as if some administrator went to a thesaurus looking for synonyms of "research" and picked "discovery". That's well and good, but as Chris points out, "Discovery" has negative connotations that were unnnoticed by the administrator involved.

But how important is this? What's in a name, after all a Research Park by any other name would smell as sweet (sorry Will). I don't think the choice of name will affect the quality of research done here or affect the chances of getting grants, or attracting new researchers. That's all in the hands of people like you and me, who value substance over image. They don't care about the name.

Administrators tend to value image over substance. To them the choice of name is important. It's unfortunate and ironic that that fact alone makes them unqualified to make the choice.

But I prefer to look on the bright side (call me "Brian").

I assume that no researchers were involved in the choice of the name "Discovery Park". The time that administrators took making the choice (which probably took committee meetings) could have been spent doing things that are actively harmful to research, such as making more rules and regulations. But it was spent doing something harmless and meaningless. Some administrator no doubt got a bullet point on his or her resume:

  • Named Discovery Park

Meanwhile, we researchers got time to do research while this high-level decision making was going on.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

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