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Looking for the Non-obvious

When it's all said and done, a project often leads to an obvious follow-up study— oh, you found this effect in mice, will you see in it people, too? "An abundance of obvious-next-step experiments creates a buzz of activities and excitement that is quite palpable among graduate students, postdocs, and professors alike," writes Nikolai Slavov, a postdoc the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at The Scientist.

However, he says that while those follow-up studies create enthusiasm, they are unlikely to be revelatory projects. "Few of the most-tempting experiments are likely to bring genuinely new perspectives to standing problems," Slavov argues. "In fact, I find that the more obvious an experiment is to me, the less likely it is to evoke a new perspective, no matter what new and fashionable technologies are used.

Instead of asking themselves how they can pursue their work down all its twists and turns, Slavov says that researchers should instead ask themselves: “How can I chart a course that’s truly worth following?”