Author Topic: Are two heads always better than one in science research?  (Read 2922 times)


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Are two heads always better than one in science research?
« on: September 05, 2010, 12:34:48 PM »
Are two heads always better than one in science research?
By Flor Lacanilao

Last week Joeriggo Reyes, a graduate student at UP Marine Science Institute, posted a comment and link to an article about research collaboration, “Making Team Science Work: Advice From a Team” by Karyn Hede, in the Science Careers section of the journal Science. He believes the successful teamwork in the article is “an ideal scenario/model where we can forego of the semantics and ‘differences’ in opinion” in this forum to improve Philippine science.

I hope Joeriggo is not suggesting that he learned such view from the MSI graduate faculty, and that debate or disagreement is bad for Philippine science and national progress. Note that disagreement is a feature of everyday life, otherwise things will not improve.

Consider the following:

1. Hindi ba, if two people always agree with each other, one of them is unnecessary?

2. Can you imagine the usefulness of a forum, like PhilScience, without disagreements and heated debates? (Disagreements and heated debates are common features of academic discussions in developed countries’ major universities.)

3. Aren’t scientists advised to be more active in policy debates related to science-based initiatives? And isn’t our scientists’ silence or failure to do so a major reason for the sad state of Philippine science?

4. Isn’t democracy the best form of government and that its characteristic features are elections and the majority rule, which settle disagreements and improve governance?

5. In decision panels or groups, why are the membership usually of odd numbers? For example, three referees to review a research manuscript in good journals.

6. In writing your research manuscript, aren't you asked to give the full details in Materials and Methods for peer verification of your results? Why? (You see the outcome of these verifications as positive and negative citations listed in citation indexes. And they indicate the growth of scientific knowledge -- how information produced in research is transformed into knowledge.)

7. How is scientific consensus—as in anthropogenic climate change and evolution—improved or achieved?

The article on team research in Science cited by Joeriggo, the one written for the Science Careers section, shows that joint decisions are better than those individually made. In the same issue of Science (27 Aug 2010) is another research report showing that the adage “two heads are better than one” is only true under certain conditions. I am providing following summary:

Reports: Optimally Interacting Minds

In everyday life, many people believe that two heads are better than one. Our ability to solve problems together appears to be fundamental to the current dominance and future survival of the human species. But are two heads really better than one? We addressed this question in the context of a collective low-level perceptual decision-making task. For two observers of nearly equal visual sensitivity, two heads were definitely better than one, provided they were given the opportunity to communicate freely, even in the absence of any feedback about decision outcomes. But for observers with very different visual sensitivities, two heads were actually worse than the better one. These seemingly discrepant patterns of group behavior can be explained by a model in which two heads are Bayes optimal under the assumption that individuals accurately communicate their level of confidence on every trial.

From Science 27 August 2010, Vol. 329. no. 5995, pp. 1081 – 1085. Bahador Bahrami,1,2,3,* Karsten Olsen,3 Peter E. Latham,4 Andreas Roepstorff,3 Geraint Rees,1,2 Chris D. Frith2,3

Further, Massie Santos Ballon, in her column “Angling for the same view” in the August 28, 2010 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, concludes:

“When two people working together can discuss their disagreements, two heads can be better than one,” said study senior author Frith in a statement. “But, when one person is working with flawed information—or perhaps is less able at their job—then this can have a very negative effect on the outcome. Being able to work together successfully requires that we know how competent we are. Joint decisions don’t work when a member of the team is incompetent, but doesn’t know it.”

Rings a bell?
« Last Edit: September 05, 2010, 12:47:58 PM by florlaca »