Which researcher is more likely to be “productive”?

We all have our own styles and ways of doing things. What do YOU think? Is it the “cluttered” bench, or the “pristine” bench. Both photos taken (as a good control) at the end of a working day…

The Pristine Bench

The Cluttered Bench

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B006CSULBW? All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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12 Responses to Which researcher is more likely to be “productive”?

  1. Mahak says:

    Both…. 🙂

    Is the space provided equal in both the cases??

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Of course the space is equal–and each bench is actually ALWAYS as shown in the photos at any given time of day (or night)…
      No cultural differences either–both researchers come from the same country (another control…)

  2. Jenny says:

    Always as shown? Sounds as if the messy one actually has experiments happening on it.

  3. cromercrox says:

    Ah me! When I was a grad student I shared office/lab space with two other grads. My space was cluttered with fossil bison bones, but, hey, I was doing a PhD about fossil bison. Another grad’s space was cluttered with specimens of fossil fish, because, hey, you’re way ahead of me. A third grad was doing purely computer-based phylogenetic reconstruction. His space was obsessively neat. Just a terminal and one (1) stack of printouts. But before he moved in we had a postdoc who was proverbially untidy. His desk was just one huge pyrimidal heap of stuff. When he was about to move out I got a motto from a novely shop and put it on top of this huge ziggurat of refuse. It read ‘A CLEAN DESK IS THE SIGN OF A SICK MIND’.

  4. Stephen says:

    I think it depends on the operator – both could work…!

  5. rpg says:

    My bench used to look like the lower of the two. Most of the time. Then every couple of months I’d make an effort to be tidy, replace the stained Benchkote, etc…

    and then entropy reasserted itself.

  6. ricardipus says:

    I’m going to fence-sit and say “it depends on the person”. I’ve worked with tremendously tidy people who were very efficient and productive, and alternatively with tremendously untidy people who were also very efficient and productive.

    On the other hand, we did have a medic in my PhD lab once whose bench was such a disaster that I took to throwing my crumpled up paper towels from handwashing onto his bench, rather than in the garbage, because it just.didn’t.make.a.difference.

    To complete the cycle, I’m also familiar with the clean bench/no work being done version. They can sometimes be a little easier to spot – or at least the non-evidence of them working can. Hm, what would Popper say about that I wonder?

  7. bean-mom says:

    My bench looks like the second.

    I’m going to go with ricardipus and say it depends on the person?

  8. Hmm, mine was always somewhere between the two states pictured.

    Judging by the state of my desk this week I have learned how to breed pieces of paper and will soon be rich, rich I tells ya!

  9. Steve Caplan says:

    Actually, BOTH researchers are doing very well. So those of you who said “Both could work”, get full credit!

  10. vrk says:

    cromercrox: I don’t know where you got your wonderful wit from, but I read your comment three days ago and I’m still chuckling.

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