Science is not defined by successes—at least, not in the way a business might. One doesn’t sell widgets of science, though science might, in fact, help to make widgets. Whatever those are.
(And yes, it is hard to get funding, I’m told, when your results don’t wow the people passing out checks.)
But more frequently than not, when I hear scientists talking about what they do, they repeatedly mention two things: the frustrations of not getting the results they hoped for, and that regardless of the results, all of it is welcomed progress.
The fails are part of doing science.
A recent episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage, “Science’s Epic Fails” (download or listen below) explores the problems dogmatism poses for doing science and the benefits of failure. No one should reject strong evidence for scientific conclusions out of hand because it runs counter to a cherished worldview, but also, in the words of Richard Feynman in The Character of A Physical Law, “We never are definitely right, we can only be sure we are wrong.”
Check out the episode of Infinite Monkey Cage for more.
Science’s Epic Fails