Something occurred to me while I was in the shower. Suppose for a moment I really was incompetent, and not just because I had little lab experience - I was just plain incompetent at labwork, I really was a fraud/failure/what have you, and to ignore those feelings would be critically bad. What would I expect to see in the world, that would distinguish that from "no, you'll be fine, this is what everyone goes through", and what would I expect to see differently from "no, you'll be fine, you'll actually be really good at this, good enough to make significant, even undergrad textbook contributions in 10 years' time"? Because there should definitely be something I should be able to observe that would be different, and if there isn't, then it seems safest to proceed with maximal caution and minimal self-estimation.

Incompetence and fraud are separate.

My impression is that being a scientific fraud is hard work. The system is designed to catch honest mistakes -- reviewers will tell you "this analysis doesn't make sense" or "this is a source of error you didn't control for," or even "we don't know what's wrong, but we don't believe this result." And they'll say it anonymously and confidentially when they don't publish your paper.

Being a fraud requires deliberate dishonesty. You would know if you were faking data. And if you are an LW reader... (read more)

More "Stupid" Questions

by NancyLebovitz 1 min read31st Jul 2013498 comments

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This is a thread where people can ask questions that they would ordinarily feel embarrassed for not knowing the answer to. The previous "stupid" questions thread went to over 800 comments in two and a half weeks, so I think it's time for a new one.