modelling and science

I met up with my PhD student Hagen this morning for the first time in 3 weeks. He has finally got really systematic about studying all his models and now we have a much clearer understanding of how they work. So now the question is, is it science? I am having the same problem today with the paper I am writing.

Basically, whether it is a contribution comes down to whether you now understand something other people do not. I used to think the criteria was that no one else understood, but now I realise there are always huge numbers of people with all kinds of theories so it is quite likely some of them already think what you have discovered is true. But it is also a contribution if you can convince more people that the hypothesis you are now backing is right.

In this case, the nature of a contribution amounts not only to your own work, but everyone else's --- are there other people currently getting published with work based on theories or hypotheses that you have shown not to be true? Then, if so, you have made a contribution, because your work can help focus the debate.

I don't know why it is so hard to get over the idea that you should be able to look at your own work and see if it's science --- I guess arguably that's true about art. But science isn't art, though both are very creative (& very tedious by turns.)

Anyway, this really makes me wonder if it is sensible to have modelling groups in maths or computing departments. But maybe it is best to be on neutral turf, and just make sure you attend the professional meetings and department seminars of the organizations you are currently working in. Isolating theoreticians from empirical people though is certainly stupid.
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