“Phenomenon, Curiosity, Paradox” — THIS is what creative science is all about

Title of this intriguing 2-page Editorial is “PCP addict”, but Steven McKnight is not talking about “phencyclidine” or “angel dust”.  Instead, he uses “PCP” as an abbreviation for three words: Phenomenon, Curiosity and Paradox.  Phenomenon is defined as “a rare or significant fact or event”; Curiosity as “one that arouses interest, especially for uncommon or exotic characteristics”; and Paradox as “a tenet contrary to received opinion.”

 A good scientist should always on the lookout for any PCP worthy of study. Once, you find a good one, you can see the opportunity to make a discovery. Before he discusses ways of finding PCPs, he first questions the value of this strategy. With respect to practicality (careerism), this approach is a bad idea. Committing to a project that is unusual, exotic or contrary to opinion is not easy. Granting agencies tend to choke on ideas that are new, different or a challenge to conventional wisdom.

Study sections want us to add incrementally to the existing knowledge base; they want to know that “what we propose in our grant applications … will work. Nothing that a scientist has “known for sure will work”, and proceeded to do the experiments anyway––has ever added anything of significance to advances in medical/scientific research. However, if a project is perceived as likely to succeed, building on what already is known and accepted … is far more digestible to most review committees, … than a project that seeks to challenge dogma or to break new ground.

The rest of the article provides an example of each of the three categories (Phenomenon, Curiosity and Paradox).

 ASBMB Today Jan 2o16; pp. 2–3

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