What is the hardest part of scientific research? If my peers and I had to vote, I think we’d all say “reproducibility”. At least, when my fellow grad students and I sit around at social events or school functions–basically, any time we bitch about our research–this is the number one complaint.
Let’s face it: it sucks when you get good results once, and then have six consecutive failures. Especially when you didn’t change anything at all about the experiment. What’s worse is when your predecessor did “it” (it being whatever the procedure in your lab is) well enough, and often enough, to publish results. But now the predecessor is gone, and no one else can get it to work.
If this just happened in my lab, I would say that it meant that DannyBoy and I were incompetent. But alas, it seems to happen to everyone I know–the synthetic organikers, the analytical folks, even my friends in environmental engineering and geology.
As Dr. Hand-Waver has said to me: “Just because something has happened twice, does not mean it will always happen.” Reproducibility is important. And that is why grad students beat their heads against brick walls–over and over and over.