By SORTEE | January 3, 2022
[SORTEE member voices is a weekly Q&A with a different SORTEE member]
Name: Benjamin Michael Marshall.
Date: 03 July 2021.
Research and/or work interests: Animal movement and spatial ecology.
If you had the power to change one thing about current incentives in your career path, what would it be?
I would like to see less emphasis placed on novelty. I see great value in undertaking the same research as others independently, be that a deliberate repetition or in isolation. Examining differences/similarities between research efforts can not only show interesting variation in the study subject, but also in the way researchers conceptualise and tackle a question. I’d love to see a greater appreciation for the value of repeated non-novel work and how it can build towards a more confident consensus. Deprioritizing novelty could relieve fears of being scooped and the rush to publish; relaxing time and publication pressure in science is sorely needed. There is little sense in building something up if the foundations are not solid.
What’s the last book that affected the way you currently think about things?
“The Dialectical Biologist” by Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin has cemented in me the importance of recognising how the questions we ask in science are shaped by our own social environment. The influence extends to how we answer the questions too, where certain ways of conceptualising the world are more dominant depending on our context. I have found revisiting these ideas particularly important in the study of animal movement and behaviour, as we have to be careful how we may project human values onto animal behaviour or examine behaviour with a particular ideological lens.
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