Professor Louis Schipper, from the University of Waikato, discusses the importance of creativity in science and why it is essential for scientists to have an indepth understanding of their subjects.
Points of interest
- How does Louis involve his colleagues when developing an idea?
- Why do you think he says you need to “challenge your idea to the maximum degree”?
PROFESSOR LOUIS SCHIPPER
Where do you get ideas? You know people ask that of writers, of cartoonists, of artists, all these people, and it’s the same for scientists. Creativity is critically important. But boringly, it’s really about understanding your subject really, really well – having a really detailed knowledge of the area that you are investigating – and once you have that detailed knowledge, you can start to see where the gaps are, or you can see where the contradictions are.
You need to be your own worst critic, so when you put up a new idea, that you can go well, wait, no, that doesn’t quite make sense and then come up with another idea. I think it’s very true that, to have good ideas, that you need lots of them and then you need to throw away 95% of them because it sounded interesting but wasn’t really a good idea.
Once you’ve got an idea, I think it’s really important to test the ideas that you’ve had. Run them against your colleagues. See what they think. Listen to their criticism really carefully. Sometimes it is easy to go well, no, I’m right and you must be wrong, but if you listen carefully, you might get some really good ideas about how can improve your idea.
Once you are pretty sure you have got your idea about right, you really need to look at a way of testing it. You have got to design an experiment that is robust and will challenge your idea to the maximum degree. An idea is just simply an idea unless you test it. As you test ideas, you’ll get better and better at formulating your ideas further, so it is critical to have strong evidence behind your ideas.
Belinda Glass, AgResearch, Invermay
Professor Louis Schipper, University of Waikato