Today my post will be a bit more high-level than usual. Most of us select scientific topics without paying much attention to overall strategy (i.e., which ones may produce the most benefit).
On this, the best piece of writing I have found is Richard Hamming‘s famous essay “You and Your Research” (which is a transcription of a talk he gave at bell labs, e.g., here, and here), Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions:
- What are the most important problems in your field?
- Are you working on one of them?
- Why not?
“If you do not work on an important problem, it’s unlikely you’ll do important work. It’s perfectly obvious. Great scientists have thought through, in a careful way, a number of important problems in their field, and they keep an eye on wondering how to attack them.”