On Selecting a Research Problem

In academic research discussions, it is very common that when thinking of solving a problem people start wondering whether it has scientific merit. Andf in many cases the discussions stop becuse people think that the problem may be solved using one of the standard techniques and hence there may be no scientific rewards in pursuing the problem.

In many cases one may find this intuition to be right, but I have experienced and seen in other cases that worrying too early about scientific merit is not very scientific. Science is getting in depth to understand nature of things. Many great research paradigms get established because somebody looks at an old problem from a new perspective and this new perspective leads to entirely new solutions.

I find it rewarding to focus more on solving a real problem without worrying whether there is a scientific merit only after I find a solution. Even if the solution is old, I am pleased that we have solved a problem. And if we discover that there is scientific merit in the soltion, then I publish it. It is also interesting to see that if you solve a real problem, then you are helping lots of people and you may even be rewarded in terms of publications in some very good journals that are read by lots of people. Many times there is ‘prestige’ associated in publishing in conferences and journals which are only read by ‘scientific experts’. These experts only places worry more about scientific merit and novelty rather than a real problem that needs to be solved.

As a researcher, you have to decide who is your audience and depending on that you can decide which problem to address and how you want to develop the solution. And this decision is one of the most important decision to be made in your scienitific career.

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