Jean-Claude Bradley reviews Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs by Morton A. Meyers. Morton says:
An applicant for a research grant is expected to have a clearly defined program for a period of three to five years. Implicit is the assumption that nothing unforeseen will be discovered during that time and, even if something were, it would not cause distraction from the approved line of research. Yet the reality is that many medical discoveries were made by researchers working on the basis of a fallacious hypothesis that led them down an unexpected fortuitous path.
We can share our failed experiments. We can share our research plans. We can discuss science freely admitting what we don’t know. We can record our talks at closed meetings and make them public. We can initiate and participate in serious scientific conversations going on in the blogosphere without worrying about everyone’s title and rank.
Basically, we can collaborate in ways that are most conducive to serendipitous discoveries. The free social software, databases and other infrastructure now available make this information exchange easier than ever.