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Taking time to savour the rewards of slow science


As an older, experienced, part-time postdoctoral fellow, I have observed a trend amongst my younger, more vigorous colleagues to experiment themselves into oblivion. Following the lead of the 'slow food' movement, I suggest we adopt a philosophy of 'slow science' to address this issue, which I believe is damaging the very basis of scientific enquiry.

My personal choice has been to accept the here and now — I am here, making history, so why not enjoy this journey? I may not be here in six months, twelve months, two years, but I am not going to work 100 hours a week to try to attain the elusive goals of my own grant, my own lab, perhaps even tenure.

In shedding the ambition of my peers, I have discovered a secret: science, slow science, is perhaps the most rewarding and pleasurable pastime one could ever hope for. My supervisor's lab is small — two postdocs only, with no teaching responsibilities. We are free to read the literature, formulate ideas and carefully plan our experiments so as to execute thoughtful strategies. We do not plough through genomes hoping to discover something interesting; we formulate a theory, and then we go in and test it.

Perhaps we are old-fashioned, but I feel my education as a scientist has benefited far more from my five years of slow science than the preceding five years of fast science. What's more, we are on the brink of something big, exciting and wonderful, that spurs my slow science forever onwards.

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Alleva, L. Taking time to savour the rewards of slow science. Nature 443, 271 (2006).

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