Quantification quandary

I have a dilemma. In brief, a difference in the results of similar, but independently conducted experiments – or, more specifically, their interpretation – has already led to my inadvertently annoying an accomplished colleague’s proficient student. This is understandable: they are working hard on a well-advanced draft manuscript for impending submission, which, as I know full well, can be accompanied by a rise in stress levels that render one more sensitive and protective. Taking this into account from the off, and being ‘novice’ to the experiment in question, I tactfully sought guidance from the student as to how to correctly score it, which threw up the potentially challengeable difference, with me remaining puzzled, and the problematic seeds sown.

Now, I abhor those ‘senior’ types whom I’ve come across, who cannot be seen to be fallible; who humiliatingly shout down in corridors if you question their take on something, or who resort to lobbing cheap snide blindsiders, like throwing eggs at a politician. I’m perfectly happy to be corrected, although I might wish to be convinced. And I instigated this particular discussion because I thought I was doing something wrong. However, after a bit of further research, I remain confused.

Although there is overlap in aspects of our work, I’m not involved in this project of theirs, and am not seeking to elbow my way in. However, don’t we, as ‘scientists’, have a ‘duty’ to speak up when we see something we think might be contentious? My developing (mis?)understanding is that their interpretation of this particular data is questionable. So, what to do? Keep my nose out, say nothing more, and see what transpires after submission? Or, as a colleague (and friend), do I risk further detriment to a good working relationship by diplomatically trying to head them off?

Trying to sort the objective from the subjective. Scientists are human. But only a real friend tells you when you’ve got potential dirt on your face. And the thing is, you see… I hope it’s on mine!


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