Monday, August 03, 2009

Wrong, Trivial, Not Original

The three stages of reaction to a new scientific result:

1. It's wrong

2. It's trivial

3. I did it first

I made this up myself while still a grad student, after a particularly exasperating interaction with a referee. However, I was amused recently to find that a similar quote is attributed to Szilard in this book (see list of quotations at the end; unfortunately not available in the Google Books preview I link to).

In my case, the referee 1. claimed the paper was wrong, then, after processing a detailed reply, 2. admitted the result was correct, but then claimed it was trivial (not worth publishing; lots of things are difficult to understand at first but when clearly explained suddenly become "trivial"). A second referee agreed the result was correct and nontrivial, but of course 3. demanded we cite his earlier related work 8-)


Artur Adib said...

I absolutely agree. A senior colleague from Russia said this is an old, well-known pattern. Funny all of us discovered that independently.

gs said...

This post is deeply flawed.

gs said...

This post says nothing new or interesting.

gs said...

Hey, I thought of this before you were even in high school.

Steve Hsu said...

I knew it was only a matter of time... :-)

Bruce Charlton said...

I came across this too - for example in the autobiography of Fred Hoyle - and wrote a piece about it:

Unknown said...

Odd - I've always seen this attributed to Haldane. Here it is as presented on some blog I googled.

"There are four stages of acceptance: 1) this is worthless nonsense; 2) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; 3) this is true, but quite unimportant; 4) I've always said so."

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