I’m preparing material for this week’s class on experimental design and data analysis, and I ran across this paragraph which I thought was very interesting:
“The cost of analyzing collected sediment samples usually exceeds that of collecting them. However, the funds for the analysis are wasted if samples are collected at inappropriate locations or do not represent the study area. Further, the proper selection and use of sediment sampling equipment, sample handling, storage and transport are all equally important to the selection of sampling locations. Therefore, about 60% of the time allocated to the sediment sampling should be spent on detailed planning of where and how to collect the samples, including logistics associated with the travel of personnel involved in the sampling, shipping the equipment to the sampling location, and handling, preservation, storage, and transport of the collected samples.” – Mudroch and Azcue. 1995. Manual of Aquatic Sediment Sampling. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, Fla. 219 pp.
The bold part is my highlight, because I am struck by the authors’ estimates of the amount of time to spend planning and doing logistics relative to the amount of time actually doing the science. A lot of weeks, I feel like this is an underestimate of the amount of time I spend planning and abetting science rather than doing it. I’m curious to know whether this ratio of planning + logistics to research is different from one field to another. It seems like a lot of the biomed-type bloggers I read spend a lot more time doing science, but maybe that’s because the planning and logistics are done by others (PIs and techs, respectively?).
I’m also curious to know whether we could construct a ratio of the time spent thinking about science, including brainstorming, journal reading, proposal and manuscript writing versus the amount of time collecting and analyzing data. Would that ratio vary by research fields or career stages? Is there an optimum ratio?