Did it ever happen to you that you cannot see the forest for the trees? I could see it so clearly right after vacation. And this time of year we are busy finalizing the targets for this year and at the same time setting the strategy for the next year. And technological progress is constantly accelerating, researchers are supposed to deliver new results in a high pace, publish more papers, submit more project applications and produce more PhD students.
Quality of research education can be assessed with respect to different expected outcomes of it – the quality of the produced PhD thesis, the quality of the main product of PhD education, i.e. the independent researcher, and the ability of this independent researcher to drive science and well-being forward by collaboration and innovation. Studies [1, 2, 3] state that several factors impact PhD thesis quality in a negative way. Governments require universities to increase the quantity (in terms of completed PhDs and articles), which results in situations when persons not suitable for PhD education are being recruited. In combination with difficulty of termination of PhD thesis work it results in situation when supervisor puts major effort in the student’s PhD thesis just to get it done. Additionally, with increased number of students per supervisor and a time limit for producing a PhD thesis, there is a decrease of thesis quality. In other words, when academic research tries to move with a pace of technological progress, there is a negative effect on the quality.
What about decreasing the pace and letting scientific results emerge at their own pace? Slowness has got a lot of attention recently. Slow cooking, Slow gardening, Slow reading, Slow education, Slow parenting, Slow design, Slow cinema, and Slow photography are examles of so-called Slow Movement that has been coined as opposed to increasing speed of technological progress. And the concept of Slow science is based on the belief that science should be a slow, steady, methodical process, and that scientists should not be expected to provide quick fixes to society’s problems. Slow science supports curiosity-driven scientific research and opposes performance targets .
And even though I can see values in Slowness, it is not my thing. I have never liked longer hikes, meditation and power walks. Long-distance running is OK only within a race, and long-distance xc-skiing is OK only in a hilly terrain. But in some cases one needs to go slow and I was lucky that 18 years ago my PhD supervisor did not let me have these quick ego-kicks that i was craving. We had to give it time, let the work mature and only publish it in the best forums. Sometimes we need time to find the right thing, and sometimes there’s love at the first sight and no time to lose.