I Know Why the Caged Researcher Sings

Researchers from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen in the UK are conducting a study on the relationship between bird songs and... uh... apparently any facet of the human experience. In what sounds to me like an interesting premise with impossibly broad scope, they will attempt to determine "how bird sounds evoke time, place and season and how people experience and draw upon bird sounds in science, art, music and their everyday lives" explained Dr. Whitehouse, lead project researcher. In case that wasn't enough, the good doctor has thrown technology into the mix. "For most people hearing is an activity we do unaided, but new digital technologies are making it much easier for people to record sounds. I'm interested in the effects this has on our interactions with birds."

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Apparently, Dr. Whitehouse is interested in the experience of anyone, anywhere, regarding the influence of birds on any part of their life. In support of this undertaking, a website has been created that will allow anyone to submit an experience they had that related to a bird's song. Check out www.abdn.ac.uk/birdsong/

This project sounds...

...more like an experiment in sadomasochism on the poor research assistants tabulating the inevitable mess. The study has â¤400,000 in funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which will undoubtedly buy the team at least two years worth of marijuana.

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How does this make you feel?

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You're reading it wrong, I think. We get money to do the research projects that are approved, not necessarily the research we actually want to do. But with some tweaking you can usually fit the stuff you're really interested in into the larger framework you get paid for. And the wider and more open-ended the overall project, the more participants can research what they want and still plausibly present it as results of the overall project at the end of the period.

This one is obviously brilliant; I'd love to know how they could get away with such a broad project definition.