Failure Is an Option: How UVA Studies the Value of Scientific Mistakes

June 25, 2024 by

Gertrude Fraser, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UVA and advisor for the conference.

Gertrude Fraser, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UVA

In a perfect world, Gertrude Fraser would want women scientists to talk openly about the times they failed. She’d want research universities to embrace errors – maybe even celebrate them – rather than writing them off as embarrassments or, worse, evidence of incompetence.

But if scientist aren’t free to make mistakes, Fraser says, progress doesn’t happen. So, she invited dozens of the nation’s top women in science, technology, engineering and math to the University of Virginia on June 11-13 for a conference on failure.

“There is a movement among scientists to destigmatize failure and to understand that failure and failure disclosure are important to advance in research,” Fraser, an associate professor of anthropology, said.

The conference was funded by the National Science Foundation and supported by the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Fraser talked with UVA Today about the benefits of addressing the times when things went off the rails.

Read the full story at UVA Today.

Article written by Mike Mather, Managing Editor, University Communications.

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Filed Under: Research