For a while now, I have been thinking around the notion of ‘serendipitous rigour’ – which might at first sight appear to be a contradiction in terms. However, sitting in the luxurious wasteland of the New Forest at the EPSRC Think Free retreat, I have discovered that others are also grappling with this notion.
So, herewith some interconnected thoughts:
- there is value in bringing together the concepts of ‘serendipity’ and ‘rigour’ – and in encouraging research practices based upon their intersection
- serendipity can be defined as the effect whereby someone accidentally discovers something fortunate or beneficial, particularly while looking for something else entirely – it is therefore crucial for creativity and the advancement of knowledge [note the origins of ‘serendipity’ in the Peregrinaggio di tre figluoli del re di Serendippo published by Michele Tramezzino in Venice in 1557, from which Horace Walpole coined the word]
- the addition of the notion of rigour to that of serendipity is important for two reasons in that
- we rigorously need to create ‘places’ where we can actually foster such serendipity, and
- we also need rigorously to take advantage and benefit from the opportunities that serendipity provides
By encouraging the promulgation of serendipitous rigour, we may be able to escape the shackles and confines of our sterile academic milieu, and develop new concepts and practices that could make the world a better place