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The need to rethink research

January 30, 2016

One of the things that I could have added to my earlier post on CfAC plans What’s it all about was a desire to rethink research in a complex social system. I was reminded of this when I got home tonight and my wife mentioned she has joined an experiment where you download an app and record your pain daily. That is then correlated with weather and papers will be published. Given the British obsession with the weather it will also be popular in the sense that Deep Thought advises the Union of Philosophers and other Thinking Folks they could be popular. If you don’t get that you need to be better read.

Now I am sure this is useful and I am sure the correlations will be impressive. Proving that damp cold weather is linked to types of pain seems pretty self-evident but it is aways useful. But like far too much research these days people are looking for single causes not taking a wider context. The picture here shows the rain lashing down the cottage in Snowdonia a couple of days ago and we are about the start on a walk. Thanks to a mixture of Paramo and Rohan neither of us will got wet (although the external clothes were saturated), we stayed warm and had a throughly enjoyable day. In fact we felt healthy because there is a sense when you are properly equipped in adverse conditions of what I can only call comfort; not complacency but confident.

The point is that there are many other factors in play and the idea (which the BBC played on its news item a few days ago) that the weather forecast will extend to a pain forecast is fanciful at best. One of the things we want to work on is capturing multiple experiences in multiple contexts and looking for patterns that would indicate different pathways away from or to contain pain. Its part of the exaptive discover I talked about two days ago, but at a personal as well at a system level. When I reversed diabetes I had evidence of diet and exercise in separate programmes. I put the two together and found the exercise produced a large part of the motivation to stick to the diet – which at 1000 calories a day less than I needed was hard. So single resolution, no single cause. We really need some radical new thinking here rather than playing with geolocation on a single causal model.

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