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Dec 01 2009

A short story about scientific impact

I work for a company, I won’t tell you who.

40 years ago a man wrote a paper, published in a scientific journal, you won’t have heard of it, it wasn’t important.

A couple of years ago I read the paper, and I carried out the calculations described in the paper. I showed the results to the team I worked with. They showed that what we were doing wasn’t going to work. So we stopped the project.

There were 10 people on the team, let’s say they each cost my company £100,000 a year. Let’s be harsh and say that my presentation only accounted for 10% of the decision to stop.

That man saved saved us £100,000.

I wish I could tell the man that wrote the paper, so he can put it in his next impact statement.

Update: Thanks to @dr_andy_russell for pointing out my rather significant typo!

3 comments

  1. VP

    I worked as a business analyst until a couple of years ago.

    I performed a similar calculation as you did and found a proposed project would cost the company £100,000 a year if implemented and so would have no benefit whatsoever.

    It took 3 months of arguing with lots of very high up people in the company (director and senior management level) to persuade them not to go ahead anyway 'because we want to do it'!

    So it probably cost them a fair whack just to (finally) listen to my advice and can the darn thing!

  2. Jack of Kent

    A story about a lawyer.

    The lawyer advises that a legal action not be brought. The action would cost a million at least, and there would be a risk that a further million could be incurred if the claim is defeated.

    The lawyer charges £1000 for this advice. He is told that this was unacceptable, as he had not done any work.

  3. SomeBeans

    @VP @jackofkent – the company I work for isn't too bad at taking unwanted advice.

    Funny thing was another member of the team, who wasn't as much of a number monkey as me, had had the paper for a while and was sure it was useful but couldn't quite work out why.

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