When I was reflecting on what to write about this week, I thought about one of my biggest pet-peeves… which is unnecessary work. I was forced to explain this recently, because I had a new roommate move in last Friday. We were basically juggling things around the kitchen because she moved in with an entire kitchen’s worth of stuff, and my other roommate and I already have a fully stocked kitchen. When we were talking about dishes/the dishes drying rack I was saying that I wanted to use her drying rack because it is bigger and I “never dry dishes by hand.” “Oh, why is that?” my new roommate asked, no doubt wondering about whether she had made a huge mistake by agreeing to move in with me. “Well,” I replied “I hate doing work that isn’t necessary, and drying dishes isn’t necessary. You could spend time drying them, or you could just leave them on the rack and come back in an hour and they’ll be dry.”
Okay, so this might seem unrelated at first, but what it got me thinking about how research is applied to real life situations after it is completed. Imagine that you’re a graduate student, and you’ve spent a lot of time preparing and conducting a study, convincing funders as well as the faculty that your research is pretty much the most important thing coming down the pike, whether it be research on the effect of Facebook on graduate students, YA fan fiction, or bias in the book weeding process. So you plan your study, conduct it, write up your findings (possibly completing a thesis or MRP in the process). Then what? Does your study just sit on the shelf of your school’s library, or waste away in your school’s institutional repository until the end of time? Was all of your work for nothing? Or perhaps just so you could get a degree? I tend to think that doing research with the end result being earning a degree isn’t a good enough reason to be doing the research to begin with, in particular if there were human subjects involved in the study. Did you inconvenience them solely for your benefit? I really feel strongly that there needs to be some sort of accountability in what is done with this new information.
Given that I haven’t done much (okay, any) formal research in the past, I don’t really know what venues exist to disseminate research information. Obviously, one could attempt to get published, but what if this plan fails? Clearly not every student conducting a major research project can have the results of their work formally published. But it bothers me deeply that all of that work was really for nothing (think the feeling I get when I hand dry the dishes x 1 000 000).
Thoughts? Feelings? How can you make sure your research matters at the end of the day?