miércoles, 24 de febrero de 2010

Secretaries key to research output

(A note circulated on April, 1, 1961 at the FINA Research Centre in Brussels – Now located in Feluy and belonging to the TOTAL Group –. Personal computers didn’t exist yet at that time)

A good secretary is worth at least two good scientists. This proposition, which brings with it a batch of farreaching implications, comes from Robert Sommer of Saskatchevan Hospital, Wyburn, Sask.

“A lab can produce only as fast as its secretary can type”, Mr. Sommer says in the Worm Runner’s Digest, an informal journal of the University of Michigan department of Psychology’s Planaria research group. A lab with four secretaries and one scientist, he believes is in a stronger position than the lab with four scientists and one secretary.

With only one secretary, Mr. Sommer points out, the research men spent most of their time checking to see if the secretary is favoring the work of one of their colleagues. They intrigue wildly to get letters typed; income tax forms are filled out and lead pencils requisitioned. In such a lab, there is little motivation for the scientist to write, since there is no one to type for him.

Mr. Sommer has derived an equation, “Sommer’s Law”, for calculating the productivity of a research lab:

Number of secretaries x average typing speed

Productivity = -------------------------------------------------------

Number of scientists

One result of this equation is that when the number of scientists becomes zero, the productivity becomes infinite. “This is probably true”, Mr. Sommer says, “but it has never been tested empirically”.

To back this claim, he adds that a monkey hitting typewriter keys at random “would certainly hit upon “E equals MC2” in less time than it took Einstein to reach it. “ Therefore, “Think of the scientific laws that could be produced if four secretaries typed random letters at top speed.”

Attention: Any resemblance with LABOFINA people is purely coincidental. LABOFINA plans to hire several more secretaries.

(End of the note)
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