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Oh, how I hate the word ‘novel’ January 26, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research, science.
Tags: , novel,

I talked previously about the fact that I have recently finished up a lit review for a project at work. For the review, I had to summarize in excess of 30 papers on a particular area.

Ninety-five percent of the papers I was reading described their contribution as ‘novel’. But what I found was that of the 30-some papers, three or four actually had original contributions. The rest were strongly inspired by these other papers (i.e. knockoffs).

But all of them are novel.

Is it just engineering that’s like this? My gut feeling is that’s the case.

I suppose it’s easier to come up with a paper where you’re making something (engineering) versus learning something (science). If someone else has already learned something, it’s hard to justify repeating it (although maybe you’re looking at a different parameter regime or something). However, it makes it very hard to make a truly comprehensive review. (The area I was looking at was just a single application – very narrow and defined.)

In the rush to get papers out and grab IP, I think it’s making it hard to do research simply because the relevant literature is quickly getting overwhelming. And with the proliferation of journals, it’s harder (and getting more expensive) to find everything that’s relevant to your particular project.

How about your branch of science or engineering?


1. Patent (De)Pending | Engineer Blogs - February 4, 2011

[...] idea.  The idea involved developing a special widget, and my supervisor thought it was an *ahem* novel idea.  He was hoping the widget might be patentable.  Granted, I may not be Hedy Lamarr, who [...]

2. Academic freedom: “I’ve got no strings to hold me down” | FCIWYPSC - September 14, 2013

[…] stand the word “novel” when used to describe research.  (I talked about that here.)  Therefore, I was quite interested when I saw, in one of my newsfeeds, an article titled, […]


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