On Scientific Research

While talking to a friend about breakthroughs in science, I told myself to record what I said to him. So: a brief note, because I often find myself telling people this same thing: most scientific research is incremental in nature.

Science, in all its self-corrective glory, is a collective enterprise. Scientists build upon existing work, — instead of creating a new framework from scratch each time — in the hopes of finding yet another missing piece of the puzzle that the community labours to solve collectively. Disproportionate glory is often bestowed on the ones that find the last (or the first) missing piece of a puzzle but it does little to change that science is, above all, a collective enterprise. Scientific revolutions are rare and major breakthroughs depend on the body of knowledge available to you. You have to be working on the right problem at the right place at the right time with enough funding/resources/genius at your disposal to create a tectonic shift.