This morning on the Today programme Evan Davis (is it just me or has he made the programme a little more high brow over the last few months?) interviewed their science correspondent Pallab Gosh about the breakdown of the Large Hadron Collider after its big Media launch earlier this year. The ending comment from Evan was soemthing like 'after all that fuss, next time they should keep quiet until they know the thing has worked'
This made me think about failure in science and innovation. Failure is an inevitable part of both the research and innovation processes – but like the Today programme, the received wisdom seems to be that its not soemthing we should talk about.There is still hope for the Large Hadron Collider when it starts up
again next June so its not a total failure, but I think its a good thing that we've seen how prone to
problems any new innovation will inevitably be.
In some areas of science and innvoation this leads to significant issues. When only positive medical trials are recorded there is a gap in our knowledge of what doesnt work, which can lead to repetition of work and a waste of efforts. It also leads to a very skewed understanding and unrealistic expectations of the innovation process by those maanging and funding.
So how do we deal with failure? How can we publically acknowledge that its part of the innovation proces?