Uncharted Territory


RSS     Archives

A Marathon, Not a Sprint


今回のはギャグではありませんが、よく参照されるイメージでA Marathon, Not a Sprintというものです。前のブログでも取り上げたことがあると思いますが、Natureが長い期間かけて取り上げている実験を取り上げるさいにscience is a marathon, not a sprintと紹介していました。科学界も資金提供の関係から、短期の成果主義に陥っているようです。

Long-term research: Slow science
The world's longest-running experiments remind us that science is a marathon, not a sprint.
Brian Owens
20 March 2013

Although science is a long-term pursuit, research is often practised over short timescales: a discrete experiment or a self-contained project constrained by the length of a funding cycle. But some investigations cannot be rushed. To study human lifespans or the roiling of Earth's crust and the Sun's surface, for instance, requires decades and even centuries.

Here, Nature takes a look at five of science's longest-running projects, some of which have been amassing data continuously for centuries. Some generate hundreds of papers a year; one produces a single data point per decade.

Experiments operating at this pace are challenged by shifting research priorities and technologies, and their existence is regularly threatened by funding droughts and changes in stewardship. But they are bound together by the foresight of the scientists who started them and the patience and dedication of those who carry the torch. If persistence predicts a long and healthy life — as one 90-year study of human longevity has suggested — then the scientists featured here could set some records themselves.


400 years: Counting spots
Astronomers have been recording the appearance of sunspots ever since the telescope was invented more than 400 years ago; even Galileo recorded his observations. But early observers had no knowledge of what the dark patches on the Sun's surface were, or of the magnetic fields that created them. That began to change when, in 1848, the Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolf began making systematic observations and developed a formula that is still used today to calculate the international sunspot number, also known as the Wolf number, which gives a measure of how solar activity is changing over time.

In 2011, Frédéric Clette became director of the Solar Influences Data Analysis Center, based at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Uccle, which curates sunspot counts gleaned from photographs and hand drawings of the Sun's surface made by more than 500 observers since 1700.


Still, says Clette, it is fascinating to 'work' with colleagues from hundreds of years ago. For instance, he says that even though Galileo's coverage of the Sun was spotty because Galileo was “busy with planets and other things”, the drawings are detailed enough to reveal information about the magnetic structure of the sunspot groups and the size and tilt of the star's dipole. “You can extract from those drawings exactly the same information as from a drawing made today,” he says.

More than that, however, he is taken with his forebears' foresight. They faithfully recorded what they saw, thinking that it could be useful later on, he says. “It's a fundamental aspect of science,” he says, “not worrying what will be the final result.”

A Marathon, Not a Sprintというイメージはいろいろな場面で応用可能なようですから、マーケティングやキャリア形成などのシチュエーションでも用いられていました。


"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."