Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Interactive science series
Q: What training should a student get before joining Ph.D.?
Krishna: If a student gets comprehensive training in research literature search, designing experiments, interpreting results and writing manuscripts for publications, scientific presentations, communication/presentation skills it would become very easy to conduct research, publish/present papers and get a Ph.D. in the shortest possible time.
However, I never received any training, most of my colleagues too never received any formal training, we found our own ways and completed our work with our own experiences learnt along the way.
Q: Why are smaller sample sizes not good for research?
Krishna: Consider this example: You take 9 samples. 5 samples give one result and 4 give the opposite one. Based on this observation if you say the majority (5) is correct, that would become erroneous because if you take 10 samples and if the 10th one shows the the second set results, that becomes half- half. So smaller samples show more errors. You cannot come to correct conclusions based on them.
As you increase the sample size ( like 9000), the errors become less significant and show more appropriate results. The use of small sample sizes could contain a skewed sample that shows stronger effects. Good results depend on seeing large-scale patterns across thousands of studies and meta-analyses.
Q: How can research results made reliable and scientists accountable?
Krishna: Experts say these things make research more valid - better trained scientists, more funding, more supervision and regulatory oversight, better control or transparency on conflicts of interest.
Q:Why do people publish their papers in international conferences? What is the significance and importance of doing this?
Krishna: You will get more coverage and recognition when you present papers in international conferences. It also denotes that your paper is of high standard because only very good papers are selected for international conferences.
You will receive instant critical feed back from experts in the field which makes you improve yourself.
You will upgrade your presentation skills and discussion dialogues.
More significantly, you are standing up for your science before the international media.
Q: What are predatory journals?
Krishna: The predatory journals are not genuine. They charge the researchers, accept manuscripts without reviewing them, print them without editing them, and otherwise make a mockery of the scientific literature by pumping out low-quality work.
You will find the list here: http://beallslist.weebly.com/
Q: Can one cite a blog post in a Ph.D. thesis?
Krishna: You may do that in art subjects, but in science a blog post is not treated as a reliable source of information because blogs are not peer reviewed, things mentioned in them need not be verified and you can’t tell for sure whether they are based on authentic data or not unless the authors give good citations. People can publish anything they want in them - even their opinions.
If I am reviewing a Ph.D. thesis in my subject, I would definitely object to blog post citations if they are used in it.
Q: Can scientific research be a hobby? I am fascinated by black holes and the theory of wormholes, but have no interest in pursuing theoretical physics as a career. Can I make any significant contributions to science if I am doing it as a hobby?
Krishna: Even if you start it as a hobby, it becomes a passion after some time. The more deep you go into it, the more it sucks you to its bottom. There is no escape if your interest and curiosity are genuine. It will have you in its grip all the time.
Well, that is my experience!
Q: Can one finish Ph.D. in 2 years?
Krishna: Extremely difficult especially in science subjects. You or your supervisor or the circumstances must be extraordinary to complete your research work in just two years in today’s world.
Q: Can a fresher with no research papers get admission to an MS in CS?
Krishna: Yes. Most of the students - at least from India - who join MS in Computer Science don’t have any research papers.
Q: Is peer-review perfect?
Krishna: No! Peer-review is only as valuable as the expertise of the “peers” doing the “review”. That is why people still publish peer-reviewed papers in alternative medicine and boast their papers are of good quality and insist that they be trusted.
Q: How can a student of B.Sc. Physics write a research paper?
Krishna: You can write a research paper if you conducted original research and got results that are significant. If you think you have enough knowledge and confidence to do that go ahead by taking the help of your professors.
You can get some training in scientific research by joining a research group and doing some voluntary work. Also read all the available literature in the field to know how to proceed.
Q: Should the motivational letter for pursuing a PhD be written by the students or the professors?
Krishna: Unless you yourself are not motivated fully, other people can’t help you much. It should come from within first. The letters written by others can only augment your own motivation.
Q: Why does one want to do PhD?
Krishna: In my case… it is to gain more knowledge. To pursue the subject I love more vigorously. To get trained as a scientist.
It became easy for me to go ahead when I got top ranks in the University and a CSIR fellowship.
Q: How do you know the people who do the peer-review of your paper are competent for the position? I once knew a first-year PhD student was asked to do peer-review for papers of a conference hosted by her adviser. I think first-year PhD is totally new, still have lots to learn…
Krishna: There is no way to learn unless the publishers tell you about it and they usually won’t!
You can’t escape some things not only in peer-reviewing but also in allocating projects, funds and in judging awards, prizes etc. Biases and incompetence are real and you need not feel sorry if you miss something despite having merit.
Lesson that should be learnt: Don’t lose your confidence because of somebody else’s bias and incompetence.
Q: How do I kick my PhD adviser from my papers' author list? Long story short, I published a paper alone recently, and my PhD adviser came to me and said: you have to put my name on all your papers, otherwise you can leave. The problem is that he never payed attention to my research, never gave me ONE single idea, never asked me "how are things going SR?", never ever. But he says: I worked to get the money that is funding your PhD, which is true, but this is a proposal for a research project that I wrote. He basically reviewed the text and we sent it out. I wouldn't mind to keep him in the author list, but not only he helps me 0 with my PhD, as he also started to humiliate me in front of more people, saying that I am disorganized and incompetent, about 1 year ago.
I am thinking about publishing two other papers till I graduate, and he freaked out when I mentioned the possibility he wouldn't be in the author list. I am afraid he stops me from graduating or gives me a bad grade.
Krishna: Oh, My! This shows how bad things can get.
To tell you the truth, my adviser too never advised me to do anything. I did everything myself. In the beginning itself I was told I would have to depend entirely on my grey matter. I took it as a challenge and strictly followed what I was told to do.
But I think whatever had happened was for my good only. When you learn how to go about things on your own, you gain confidence, knowledge and get more creative.
I added my supervisor’s name to all my papers despite the help I didn’t get. I never complained but maintained a very cordial relationship throughout my Ph.D. with my ‘guide’. In the end I got a very good recommendation letter from my supervisor praising me and my capabilities to no end!
It is easy to get bitter but I think you too should follow what I did. Kicking your adviser out of your papers gives a very bad impression about you to other people in your academic circle and it doesn’t bring you any good.
Q: Are identical strains necessary in the Biological research?
Krishna: Yes, to make uniform research conditions identical strains are very important. By allowing access to identical strains, cultivars and cell lines, the collections allow published research to be directly reproduced. This is of special value because – along with addressing concerns about the reproducibility of scientific data – it also makes individual organisms, clones, populations or tools that have been used successfully in research studies available to other investigators, bypassing the need for repeated optimization studies.
Q: Can we trust research findings all the time?
Krishna: There is a research paper that discusses this problem. It says: There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.
( Why Most Published Research Findings Are False : http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pm... )
Q: What impact can a bad research reports have on general public?
Krishna: The impact is highly significant in medical research according to scientists. Most of the harm comes in invisible form — diseases not cured, hopes not met. Occasionally people are actively harmed by these problems. For example, doctors prescribed hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progestin) to postmenopausal women for many years before they realized they were actually causing thousands of excess cases of breast cancer and heart disease. The failures of basic biomedical research are more subtle but arguably have greater impact on people.
Q: Why do we get false reports?
Krishna: Because of “undesirable behaviuors,” which need not be blatant falsification or malfeasance, but more like corner-cutting — from sloppy handling of data to skipping repeat experiments, not considering all the parameters before coming to a conclusion because of lack of time and resources.
These are far more common, given the hypercompetitive world of research, where the pressure is on not only to produce, but to produce quickly and to come up with flashy results.
Q: Is it possible to complete a Ph.D. all alone without a good supervisor?
Krishna: Universities and fund providers insist on supervisors. Therefore, you have to have one according to rules.
But if the supervisor is not good or refuses to help you in any way, you can work on your own like I did. My supervisor told me very clearly in the beginning itself that I would have to depend only on my grey matter. I took it as a challenge and did everything myself and succeeded in getting a Ph.D. on my own. My supervisor was happy.
If you are capable of doing that - at this stage one should - you can go ahead without the help of a supervisor.
Q: Why scientific research in Indian Universities is declining?
Krishna: There are several reasons. The main things are faulty training and people’s lack of interest in research. You will find full details and how to improve scientific research in India here:
Q: Is it possible to do research (not necessarily for a Ph.D.) without a supervisor?
Krishna: Yes, you can do research without a supervisor. But first you have to learn how to go about it - especially in science. It is very hard but can be self-taught, by reading all about it and observing how others are going about it.
You can find some more Qs on scientific research and my replies to them here: http://kkartlab.in/group/some-science/forum/topics/how-to-do-resear...
(best website to get free journals , its wiki page - )
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(another great site for journals, by microsoft)