on high teach speed


A reader called Ingeborg was asking

>>>”Do you think that teaching did impair your research?”

my answer was:

>>”oh no, it may have made it a bit slowlier (although even this is debatable) but it definitely didn’t impair my research.”

Ingeborg replied on that:

>”but if you are slowlier then your faster collegues may react faster to new important scientific breakthroughs and they will be faster to publish new results, so it does impair your research.”

here my answer:

my comment was referring to my sofar made personal experience. Plus i wrote that too much teaching may impair research and teaching.

It is clear that -especially if your research is rather “top result”-oriented- then a collegue with a heavy teaching load will have a hard time to compete with a collegue who is free of obligations.

That actually leads to quite some frustrations within the scientific community.

But even more frustrating it is if it is not teaching, but remote jobs like cab driving or administrative duties which are keeping you from research. Or a general burocracy which is incompatible with the the demand for flexibility.

Not all research is of that “top-result” kind. Like if you are working in a niche, then the competition is often not so big, especially if it is not clear what you are about to discover. Like for example if you are reconstructing archeological remnants then its much more likely that you are going to struggle for funding than that you are going to struggle with collegues who would take your shards away.

In particular the more funding is based on “results” (especially technologically/economically utilizable results) the more these “niches” are prone to disappear. I wrote something about funding and research in this post.

On the other hand if you look at research on more broad terms then it is also clear that it won’t florish without teaching. Blatantly put:

if you dont teach, it is rather unlikely that someone will continue your work.

You may communicate your results, methods etc. to your collegues put if nobody is interested to do the hard work of explaining/justifying everything in detail to students then your knowledge is not fully transmitted.

Even more problematic: in areas where scientific publications are “churned out” fastly one can often observe a didactic negligence. I.e. for an outsider it is almost impossible to recover the findings, that is in these publications it may be that references are incomplete, expressions are used unexplained etc. Means: the understanding is in these cases are not only impaired but impossible, if you don’t know the scientific context.

My first single author publication was actually a publication, which I would call myself “undidactic”. That is the results are more or less solely understandable to experts in the field. The publication was put hastingly together because I was told someone else is working on the subject and I should better hurry up publishing my results. Plus I was unexperienced in scientific writing (the publication is part of my Ph.D.). I was lucky because I had the chance to explain the results/conjectures of that article again after my Ph.D., but in principle I think a more didactical paper would have been better even for the sake of my own research progress.

So a “too high research speed” and “fastly setting-out claims” may also impair research. This holds especially true if “results” are patented/claimed. The ridiculous software patents like for a “webshop” or patents with retroviruses are displaying this very clearly.

Another aspect of a too high research speed is that the personal life of researchers may be impaired (like that they are forced to show less care for elderly/kids and social life in general etc.). Bodily restraints, like sickness etc. are also not accounted for.

However an even more problematic aspect of a too high research speed is that results that may have vast societal implications may be left more or less unquestioned/undiscussed, like it happens in Bio/Nanotechnology. However the implications of research for a society are an important aspect of research itself. In particular the dangers and possible bad implications need to be communicated appropriately (see e.g. here). (Again: if your are highly dependent on outside funding then possible negative consequences may be prone to be rather neglected).

Do you know how well-tested the nano-coating of your outdoor gear is?

4 Responses to “on high teach speed”

  1. nad Says:


    Nanohedron has just released their latest gallery:


    which includes images from scientists (Sunney Xie, Eric Heller, Hao Yan) and
    artists (Laura Olear, Hypsis), as well as science/art collaborations between
    the Zhengwei Pan research group and artist Michael Oliveri.

  2. nad Says:

    For those who want to know more about single-walled carbon nanotubes and their technological relevance, see e.g. here.

  3. Todd Beck Says:

    nad wrote :
    >I was lucky because I had the chance to explain the results/conjectures of that article >again after my Ph.D., but in principle I think a more didactical paper would have been >better even for the sake of my own research progress.

    you mean that you explained that part of your thesis after it was graided to your advisors?! …(this is just a joke of course, I have sometimes a quite goofy kind of humour :) )

    But seriously – did you had the chance to talk about that work you mentioned like for example in a seminar?

  4. nad Says:

    @Todd Beck

    I gave a talk in front of the mathematical physics group at the TU Berlin about the work, when the article was/was about to be published. I was proud that even international guests were attending the talk (if i recall correctly from russia).

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