NCBI ROFL: Time: Solved.

By ncbi rofl | December 8, 2009 4:00 pm

Scientific life should be measured in seven year units.

“Traditional wisdom and empirical observation unite in recommending a 7 year unit for measuring human life – including individual and institutional science. But, because of astronomy and the decimal system, things tend to be measured either in years, five years or in decades. A year is too short while a decade is too long to measure the trends and transitions of individual or institutional life. And the half decade, such as the ‘five year plan’ beloved by politicians and bureaucrats seems too short. Therefore, seven years should become the standard unit for tracking trends and measuring attainment. Precedents for using a seven year unit include the notorious Jesuit saying: ‘Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man’; and the ‘ninth commandment’ of Leo Szilard: ‘Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not prevent you from being what you have become’. In a scientific career, seven years is approximately the time spent at high school, the time taken for a traditional basic scientific training of first degree and doctorate, and the period after the doctorate building the knowledge to become an expert specialist. There seems to be enough anecdotal evidence to support the idea that we should reconsider the universal but un-reflective use of decimal units in planning and evaluation. For instance, seven year fellowships and program grants might replace the current five year versions. A new – and previously unconsidered – field of research beckons.”

Also, in case you missed his comment on our post from yesterday, Bruce loves us too:

“What an excellent idea! If only all bloggers shared your enthusiasm – ahem.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, you have my blessing

(holds out large jewelled ring to be kissed…)

Bruce G Charlton”

  • Anonymous

    7 years in high school? I read and reread this and it still seems that that is what he is saying. I guess this author wasn't every good at school.

  • debbaasseerr

    "There seems to be enough anecdotal evidence to support the idea that…"

    Ahh yes, anecdotes! The highest quality evidence, especially if you pile them up high enough.

  • Anonymous

    Four is approximately seven. It's only off by three!

  • Anonymous

    What the what?! Who knew science years are the same as dog years…

  • Wordy McBeard

    A little history on why Christians love the number 7:

    In medieval times, numerologists held the number 3 as the number of spiritual perfection. The trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the most obvious example from Catholicism.

    The number 4 was the number of physical perfection (4 points on a compass, 4 humours in the body, 4 "elements", 4 seasons, etc).

    The number 5 represents Man (head + four limbs as represented in pentacle).

    The number 6 represents the Devil.

    The number 7 represents God because it is the sum of 3 (spiritual perfection) and 4 (physical perfection). Why 6 represents the Devil is a little unclear, but I think he is traditionally seen as being higher than Man but lesser than God. Plus the whole 666 thing.

  • Pam

    And, it explains the 7-year itch!


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About ncbi rofl

NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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