Listening to a lecture at a Conference or to the talk of an invited speaker in your home institution you are fascinated and almost envious. An interesting scientific question at the beginning, a brilliant approach combining methods from various fields, an expected outcome or very reasonable explanations why not, and a conclusion explaining all results, published and yet unpublished. All seems so logical, so straightforward and convincing.
After some years in research you realize this is not at all the everyday experience. Who hasn’t encountered an inability to reproduce published experiments or earlier results from their own lab, not to mention unexpected outcome from work on your own bench? At first, these experiences are considered failures, real failures, after which you may feel very bad or regard yourself as not cut out for success. Day after day on the bench things do not work out as expected. Frustration grows, and soon the fascinating side of doing research is darkened. Generally, scientists can really take a lot, but some indeed leave research for good.
This is not a new phenomenon. Some people are brave enough to speak out about their experiences, providing good examples how to cope with failure. Just have a look using Google and the keyword “failure in science” or “failed experiments” and click through the articles or editorials. Practical tips like “take care of yourself” or “ask for help” (https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2007/02/mastering-your-phd-dealing-setbacks) may in some situations even rouse your fury, but you could just as well look at other stories about this subject, such as ‘Growth from failure’ in sciencemagazin or
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/failure-in-science-is-frequent-and-inevitable-and-we-should-talk-more-about-it/. After all, we should keep in mind that ‘Scientific progress is built on failure’. Would you be willing to share your experiences of how to cope with failures with the FEBS Network community?