Chapter 20: Professor Henrik Clausen
In Henrik Clausen’s opinion, one can only call a scientific work excellent if it entails technical thoroughness and caution. According to him, excellence is therefore first and foremost a matter of having your data in order. “Nothing must be wrong. Even if we make a wrong interpretation of a result, the data must be right. Sometimes we can be delayed compared to our competitors who have reached the right results with a sloppy attitude. But normally we are not overtaken by other scientists because we are leading in the field.”
Publishing research in prestigious journals such as Nature indicates that the work is excellent research. That might be an easy answer to the question of what defines excellent research. But in Clausen’s opinion, that answer is too simple. For him, it’s more a question of whether the research is groundbreaking.
“When you apply for grants from the European Research Council (ERC), people say that you must have published five articles in Nature. I think that’s a big mistake. Different disciplines have different options for publishing. I think the word groundbreaking is better. Obviously, you should publish in good journals, but it’s not linearly related. It is all about being in a unique position where people have an expectation that you might be able to break an important barrier. Our field is incredibly technical, and there are some obvious technical barriers, but it also requires that you will be able to figure out what you can do if you break through a barrier. For example, why do we need to know how the AB0 genes are related? Blood typing is one of the most frequent tests in the world, one that is done by testing the phenotypes of blood. In principle, one could genotype the blood instead, although that type of testing is too difficult for hospitals to do so routinely. But blood types are a perfect example of polymorphisms in the population, and there are a lot of interesting things that can be deduced from insights into the genes. Indians, for example, are almost all blood type 0, presumably due to selection, because certain pathogens enter the cells using A and B, and it has therefore been beneficial to lack these.”
You can read the full portrait of Professor Henrik Clausen by downloading the chapter below (In Danish)