Posted by: yashada | June 17, 2009

Of Research Reports & Pop-up Art

Last summer I had the opportunity to write a research report on a small research project we carried out in our lab.  When I look at that report all hardbound and golden embossed or similar such reports written by my seniors in our lab, it somehow reminds me of domineering old English men with monocles sitting on their high backed chairs and a smug expression on their faces.


And then I watch videos on TED such as this, that explained to me a complex concept of mathematics that I’m sure I would not have understood if I was sitting in a room with a blackboard or reading it in a peer reviewed journal.

This particular video is consilience raised to infinity! Who would have thought a single talk could merge crochet, maths and coral reefs and make meaningful conclusions out of it? I also loved their idea of Play Tanks, or Kindergarten for Adults.  It opened up my mind in a way a research paper could never have. And yet if I am to carry out research it will have to involve the task of presenting it in the conventional humdrum research paper-form. Another addition to the growing stacks of old English men. If only I could use crayons or cartoons or little animated clips or humour… Imagine such a research paper! Imagine opening a peer-reviewed journal with pop-up art in!!  Not only will such alternative modes of presentation help a researcher to express himself but they will also go a long way in recruiting more scientists and exposing students to the beauty of science.

But I am aware of where the problem lies. A research paper or the language in it  should be in a purely objective form. Science is, after all, not an entity wih emotions and feelings. Each researcher is but a mere contributor to a vast and rapidly growing body of knowledge and there is no place for an individual’s opinion or emotions. What a pity though. Since a scientist most probably has chosen to be a scientist of his or her own accord; he is not a scientist out of compulsion, but choice! Such a person will feel for the work he has performed, but sadly he can’t express it in a research paper because the current norms go against such an act.

But should a research paper be the only path of communication between scientists? If a researcher wants to talk about his work in a more lucid fashion, maybe he could do it using a blog or platforms like TED. And yet it won’t be the same, it won’t be the same as a peer reviewed journal which has a comic sans font. Such a journal could never be taken seriously and no one would want to publish in it.

Alternative ways of presentation  is a novel idea in itself. Pity we are not making full use of it.



  1. first of all, liked the video a lot; reminded me of the engineer within me 🙂
    and i just loved the moment when she showed the sweater like thing to explain the hyperbolic lines – so simple and effective

    coming to ur blog; i think the problem is that there are so many of scientists around and so much of research going on, that if we don’t formalise the way science is done then the marginal benefit realized by free expression would be overwhelmed by the marginal loss that would be generated by the chaos that such a situation would result in.

    by the way, what’s the difference between knitting and crocheting? she says at one point that the two are different? and i have no clue what crochet specifically means.

    • Yeah, that part where the 2 seemingly different concepts come together was excellent! I loved it too. 🙂

      It is true, wht u said, that there must be a formal way for discoveries in science to be presented, otherwise information will, inevitably be lost. Thats why it is such a pity, because this formal methods makes it look more intimidating than it is. At least thats what I think.

      Crochet is a type of knitting, but its a lil diff. Good ol wiki has explained it pretty well. It says:

      “Crochet (pronounced /kroʊˈʃeɪ/) is a process of creating fabric from yarn or thread using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the Middle French word croc or croche, meaning hook. Crocheting, similar toknitting, consists of pulling loops of yarn through other loops. Crochet differs from knitting in that only one loop is active at one time (the sole exception being Tunisian crochet), and that a crochet hook is used instead of knitting needles.”

  2. hey…so true…..i agree wholeheartedly…y do science papers and reports have to be so…so…well…scientific??!!!!! u get the point im trying to make….!!! y cant they be a lil more creative and well….fun!!! (and i would not use pink stuff…jus a lil more colorful..)

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