Devastated... Following up a hard project


======= Date Modified 08 Feb 2011 23:17:47 =======
Let me preface by saying I am using this forum as a place to vent the devastated state of mind I am finding myself into. I'm not looking for advice, merely understanding, or consolation if you will.

I have, as it appears, worked extensively on a project that has just resulted in a publication in a respectable journal. It turns out getting there was not easy, and the project was far from a piece of cake. Which would be normal, were it not for the following corcumstances: I am moving onto another project and someone else has been appointed to follow up where I left off on the other project. All good and well so far. Only not quite.

Knowing the project and how hard it was to get the results I got, I feel terrible for the next person who picks it up -- I sweated over those experiments, and even when they worked reproducibility was extremely poor. All of us in the lab know this, but the work is fairly novel the idea of improving it what motivated the decision to get someone else on it.

It may sound trivial, but I am depressed by it. If it turns out the other person cannot reproduce those results I will be devastated and will bring into question my own results. I dont know how to feel. All I know is I go home every night feeling miserable. The work this new person is doing is slightly different, so there may be many reasons why that doesn't work, but I am still terribly worried.

As I said, I don't need advice, but perhaps a sense of consolation to come from someone who has been in similar shoes... Or just the lie that everything will be ok and I won't be exiled from science.


Good science is reproducible.

Maybe you go home feeling miserable because you didn't do good, reproducible science, and you'll soon be exposed as a data-manipulating fraudster.

You will be exiled.

Everything will not be ok.

Unless of course your science is good, in which case there is nothing at all to worry about =)


======= Date Modified 15 Feb 2011 09:41:45 =======
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You're basically catastrophising. Ignore Cleverclogs, a user name was never less appropriate. The work you did got published in a reputable journal, so I would say it is probably good work. You know that it was good too, because you did it. If the person following it up has problems then they are that person's problems, not yours. Plus, they may solve some of the problems and actually add to your work and make it better (this is after all what they're meant to do!).

If it turns out that your work was flawed then oh well, that doesn't matter as much as you might think. So long as you didn't deliberately mislead you haven't done anything wrong morally, you've just been unlucky. It's hardly the end of your career. People may scrutinise your later work more, but this isn't a bad thing, as I'm sure it will be good work.

So, chin up, and even if the worst outcome occurs (it probably won't) then it's not as bad as you think anyway.


Ignore screamingarabs, your post demonstrated your guilty conscience.


Ignore Cleverclogs, he/she/it is just a petty malicious troll, who seeks to provoke a hostile response by writing inane drivel. The best response is not to respond at all and ignore it. Most trolls hate being ignored.

In some cases, reproducing experimental data can be troublesome, especially if the experiments are very sensitive to 'micro conditions' such as minor variations in temperature, humidity, pressure etc. Minor variations in technique from researcher to researcher can also result in data not being easily reproducible. I would not worry too much unless you fabricated the results, which I am pretty sure you did not.


Two issues here.

First, the validity of your results. If you researched ethically and took into account the conditions then you'll be fine. If you mentioned the difficulties in your journal article then you are well-covered, but even if not you could write a follow up paper that explains the problems encountered. This will be of benefit to later researchers, and if not published at least you'll have a record of collaborating with your successor on it.

Next, post project depression is a concept I have encountered a lot in my career (IT and telecomms), I taught the concept to MSc Project Management students, and am going through it after completing my PhD.

Projects are goal oriented and driven environments. Those participants who are 100% involved are somewhat removed from their 'normal' business-as-usual duties or career. When those drivers and goals are removed, there is little to carry one through until the next task appears. Participants can feel insecure about their role in and value to the organisation, so good managers will find things for their teams to do when the job is done. Otherwise there is a risk of their people finding other jobs.