Physics307L:Schedule/Week 2 agenda/Small group exercise

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These are the results from 2010. See also the 2011 exercise

  • Goals
    • Learn something about what makes "good" science
    • Get used to talking and contributing to class discussions
  • Task
    1. Make small groups of 2 or at most 3 people
    2. Brainstorm about what necessary things you need to do in order to perform a "good" scientific study.
    3. After about 5 minutes, pick your favorites and email or txt them to me (txt 505-750-3279)
    4. I'll collect them and then we'll argue as a group about what is most important

Quick summary

See below for the results from exercise. The quick summary is that reproducibility received the most votes as a critical thing for "good" science. Objectivity and creative experiment design also made the 2nd round of run-off voting. Safety was nominated for critical but received zero votes. Good controls only received one vote, but was afterwards vigorously defended by Alex (and hopefully me). As a class we argued over whether objectivity is required for reproducibility. Intelllectual honesty, patience, and sharing information were also nominated as critical. We discussed whether sharing of information is required for good science, or whether good science could be carried out (and eventually lost) in isolation.

Obviously this is not a "good" survey, but I think was a useful exercise and got the students interested and interacting. I was really happy that "reproducibility" won, because we are doing open notebook science, and we spend a lot of time talking about the purpose of a good lab notebook and how to do it.

Brainstorming Results

These are the items that groups felt important enough to email or text to me.

  • Know the main goal of ur research
  • Communication skills
  • Data organization
  • Keep track of what u do by writing
  • Be careful to be precise and accurate
  • Be creative
  • Be curious about the problem. U discover more
  • Don't be afraid to make a mistake
  • Safety first
  • Know ur equipment and how to use it
  • Use your time efficiently
  • Don't change too many variables at once
  • Do a lot of planning, for good procedure* Transperancy, error analysis, citations, objectivity
  • honest representation
  • reproducibility
  • relevance of work
  • Design experiments such that the number of unknowns is


  • Make sure no personal bias toward the results is
  • Repeatable
  • Can be observed and / or measured
  • Is readily available to the public
  • Asks questions
  • Is patient
  • Finds a reproducible experiment


  • Open lines of communication
  • Intellectual honesty
  • Have a clear objective Have adequate controls Have detailed record of observations have properly functioning equipment Avoid any bias in measurements
  • withstand rigid experimental disproof

Nominations for critical

These are the items that at least one student nominated from the above list. Student was required to make a little argument as to why. After nominations were set, we did voting. Round 1 was two votes / person, vote for any item. Round 2 was two votes per person, only considering the 3 highest from round one.

  • Safety -- so you don't die
    • Round 1 votes: 0
  • Adequate controls -- you won't know what you're measuring
    • Round 1 votes: 1
  • Reproducibility -- If you can't reproduce someone else's work, what is that work worth?
    • Round 1 votes: 11
      • Round 2 votes: 15
  • Objective / aware of biases -- so the work is actually useful
    • Round 1 votes: 7
      • Round 2 votes: 9
  • Intellectual honesty -- if you don't cite properly you might as well be stealing
    • Round 1 votes: 3
  • Patience -- if you give up the first time it doesn't work, there will never be progress
    • Round 1 votes: 2
  • Asks questions -- without curiosity there is no science at all
    • Modified to "Asks the right questions" -- relevant / not getting distracted
    • Creativity
      • Ask creative questions that are relevant and answer them in creative ways that are most productive
        • Round 1 votes: 6
          • Round 2 votes: 10
  • Sharing information -- to save time so different groups don't repeat unnecessarily
    • Round 1 votes: 2