August 28, 2023
Following up on my last blog concerning the now-defunct giants of mill building…the geniuses who designed those machines never got the individual acclaim they deserved. Authors, architects, and even car designers have their names forever associated with their creations but the men and women who shaped entire industries. Some of this anonymity is no doubt due to the collaborative nature of engineering; few big projects are done with only one creator. Unfortunately, credit often goes to someone who really did not have that much creative input. While doing some research recently I was struck by how much more personal engineering presentations once were. In the early part of the 20th century technical magazines would publish a paper and follow up with comments in the letters to the editor column. A paper’s author was expected to defend the work against all comers in a very public forum. As you might imagine, this could get ugly at times. Not modern Internet-troll-ugly, because correspondence was carried out in complete sentences with proper grammar and commentators had to use their real names and affiliations. Such an open peer review probably contributed to lifelong rivalries, but it made for better science, in my humble opinion. My four Fall Technical Meeting papers have been peer reviewed; I have served as a peer reviewer dozens of times. The process is much more gentle than that described above. Sometimes it seems the process is designed to remove passion from the papers. I do not want to work on projects where the participants are just going through the motions. My son once played for a baseball coach who proudly wore the “I yell because I care” tee shirt his better half bought him as a subtle hint to back it off a notch. That team improved because passion was encouraged and directed towards improving skills and decision making. I want that kind of emotion on my projects; don’t you too?