How does One Cook Half-Baked Ideas?
By now many of us have descended on INFORMS with our research ideas encoded in powerpoint and prezi form. However, I find myself wondering about the ideas that (to mangle the newspaper catchphrase) are not yet fit to print or present.
I think all of us have had a moment where we watched a student struggle with a homework problem they didn’t understand. “SOLVE it? I don’t even know how to START it!” the student mutters under their breath. You may chuckle when you are not that student! But what happens when the topic is no longer homework, but a research area that you can’t quite synthesize your thoughts on?
Also, the other day I overheard a fellow professor talking about a paper they wrote that at first was seen as useless by a fellow senior colleague. The professor let the paper languish, only to submit the paper years later and to win a best paper award from a good journal. I suspect his experience is not unusual.
So what’s the point of these random anecdotes? I enjoy how INFORMS allows us to present our research to the community and gain valuable feedback. However, there will always be three tricky areas for research conferences to handle:
1) Research ideas that we possess that are too unfinished or unorganized for presentation purposes.
2) Research ideas that are outside our field of expertise or focus but may be valuable to people in that particular field
3) Research papers that are so unusual relative to the existing mindset that there is some concern that presenting them may harm one’s scholarly reputation.
Some of the typical concerns are that one does not want to be rewarding scholarly laziness or deliberate eccentricity. In addition, there are definitely valid concerns about possible free-riding and theft of intellectual property. However, I thought it worth asking, do you think an INFORMS meeting can (or did) help you with half-baked ideas? If so, how did it happen? Or what other methods have you used to help bring these ideas to fruition?