Community in Research

  • from personal experience working with Ink&Switch
    • it's great having like-minded people supporting you, even if they work on different problems at the moment
    • scheduling time for thinking together, and demoing things to each other is extremely valuable
    • team summits are great for "hallway conversations"

I understand, then, why researchers flock to the safety of institutions. Imagine studying something that nobody else is studying, for reasons you can't really articulate, without knowing what the outcome of your work will be. For the truly obsessed person, the need for validation isn't about ego; it's about sanity. You want to know there's some meaning behind the dizzying mental labyrinth that you simultaneously can't escape and also never want to leave.

— Nadia Eghbal - https://nadiaeghbal.com/independent-research

Oddly, one of the best models I have here is old-school correspondence. People working mostly independently on creative projects, sending each other long letters (emails) every few months with distilled thoughts and wonderings. A different kind of collaboration, but quite good.

— Andy Matuschak - https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1263556068652675072

Perhaps a more subtle practice I've found helpful is to find situations where the desired outcome is considered unremarkable.

I like being in a PhD program because "produce novel, high-quality research" is just what everyone is doing, not some cool special thing.

— Geoffrey Litt - https://twitter.com/geoffreylitt/status/1375116106734702594

One of the keys to this kind of thing working is having a community. Xerox PARC and CDG are like collective MacArthur grants. You're not funding individuals, you're putting together a community. You're trying to create an environment, a world. Not a thing. We never discussed what our ultimate goal was at PARC. It didn't look like we were doing anything for the first couple years, and Xerox was upset. But the process was surprisingly efficient, because most of that trillion-dollar return was invented in the first five years.

5 Steps To Re-create Xerox PARC's Design Magic

Szymon Kaliski © 2021
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