Research stamina

Running a research project has more to do with a marathon than a sprint. Most good runners can nearly run forever if they avoid injuries and they stay hydrated and motivated.

Similarly, a creative worker can work nearly forever on a topic. A novelist can write 10 books in a saga. A researcher can produce 25 papers on a narrow topic. How do they do it?

  • You must not lose focus. It is easy to get interested in the a brand new idea and drop your current work. You should not change your focus without careful consideration.
  • You need a constant flow of new ideas. You should never focus exclusively on a narrow topic. You need the white noise. You need smart people making you think about alternatives. You need to draw analogies on what others are doing.
  • You must keep your job and sufficient funding to keep going. Obviously. Fortunately, many research topics require little more than your own salary.
  • You need to keep challenging yourself. The human mind degrades when subjected to routine tasks.

Daniel Lemire, "Research stamina," in Daniel Lemire's blog, June 2, 2008.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

One thought on “Research stamina”

  1. Professor, I am absolutely with you on maintaining a idea pool and working on them, probably each at a different stage in the ‘processing pipeline’. Infact, while developing software as I see it it’s worthier to have a list of features to develop and a priority associated with each. Some times the higest priority task will be ‘hello world’. I just try deliver it I day ahead of time window, while stealing some time to work on a low priority /good to have/ or a long haul feature like refactoring the code base.

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