Do not do it wrong if you can do it right

There is a nice article (short communication) out, co-authored by one of my heroes of SAXS: W. Ruland [1].

This man is well versed in the principles of the field, having specialised in it for over 40 years now. Over the years, he’s kept himself busy with both practical and theoretical issues. One of the aspects that captured my interest in this man is that he is not afraid to check someone else’s work. Previous work of his (which I may elaborate upon at a later stage), provided a point by point discussion of the work by another researcher.

That particular aspect is one I respect. I strive towards having a similar characteristic in my research. He does not focus on his work alone, running in a single direction with eyes closed. On the contrary, he opens his eyes, looks towards the work of others and joins it with his own research.

If scientists (in this field, but not limited to this alone) would recognise the work of others, co-operate with them towards the common goal of the advance of science, or even discuss the work of another, the scientific world would seem a lot more professional. But I digress. The point is that discussion is good, and in my eyes, at least 50% of ones time should be spent looking at the work of others and discussing their results.

The referenced article [1] is a good example of that. As it turns out, two conflicting methods were reported by Kratky (1933) on the one side, and Ledbetter and Norris (1979) on the other. The topic was a relationship between the axial orientation distribution and the equatorial intensity profiles. Both relationships are widely used, but are not equal. Burger and Ruland noticed they are significantly different, and stated that they cannot both be correct.

During a short discussion, it is found that there is a mix-up of variables in the Ledbetter and Norris version, and that the Kratky version is the right one. Whilst for small orientation distribution widths, the deviation is not so bad, it is rightly stated that there is now no longer any need to use the wrong equation.

In my eyes, this says it all. This is the goal one should keep in mind. With this one short work, a method is shown to be flawed, it is shown what the effect is and no question now remains. People that have used the erroneous derivation in the past, might want to determine their errors and should switch to the right derivation as soon as possible.

Simple steps like this ensure progress in the field. I for one will be watching for more gems like this.

[1] C. Burger and W. Ruland. Evaluation of equatorial orientation distributions. Journal of Applied Crystallography, 39:889–891, 2006.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.