• Question: have you ever given up on an experiment or have not found the answer to an experiment you have done?

    Asked by aisling to Gavin, Karen, Mark, Michel, Roisin on 8 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Michel Destrade

      Michel Destrade answered on 8 Nov 2016:

      Yes happens often that I don’t find the answer. But I don’t give up, I just leave it aside and work on something else. Often the answer will come later, maybe someone else will find it or help me find it. I have a few of those in store but I’m still young (kinda) and optimistic. 😉

    • Photo: Karen

      Karen answered on 9 Nov 2016:

      Since I’m not a research scientist my answer would be no. Any research experiments I’ve done I’ve had to complete them as they were part of my degree and masters courses. However I have had to readjust and recalibrate methods in that lab that were not giving accurate and/or precise results. In fact I have to ensure that I regularly check and ensure that the results I release to clinical staff are correct as they are hugely important in patient care.

    • Photo: Mark Kennedy

      Mark Kennedy answered on 9 Nov 2016:

      Yes. One time in particular comes to mind, where I pointed a telescope at what ended up being nothing for a couple of hours. I thought it could detect an object, and it turns out it couldn’t.

      This is still an interesting result though (why couldn’t the telescope detect it? Is the system fainter than I thought? Or is something in the way?)

      Failed experiments and not getting answers can still led to some interesting results.

    • Photo: Roisin Jones

      Roisin Jones answered on 10 Nov 2016:

      Oh yes, definitely! Occasionally in science (certainly in chemistry), things just don’t work out, and we’re not always able to find out why. There’s so much we have left to learn, we can’t predict every outcome, and sometimes the outcomes is that things you think should work just don’t! In general though, as Mark said, even a negative result doesn’t necessarily make it a failed experiment: you learn from your failures, and from other peoples, and that’s how advances in science are made.