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14 Times Scientists Failed Hard In The Field

Research team discussing results on computer in modern laboratory (Photo credit Morsa Images / Getty Images)

Say "the Scientist" and you might conjure up an image of a serious person wearing a lab coat in a pristine laboratory. But science often involves fieldwork, which can be messy and dangerous.

In 2015, scientists started sharing #Fieldworkfails on Twitter. French illustrator Jim Jourdane decided to compile the best and illustrate them. Here are 14 favorites from their Facebook page.


1. Getting close to your work.

2. A different kind of "wet work."

3. The cost of extreme close-ups.

4. A log isn't always a log.

5. A new dance is created.

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Studying wild animals or digging out million-year-old fossils looks exotic and exciting in movies. Remember, Indiana Jones is an archaeologist.

But that's Hollywood's version of science. The reality can be boring or disgusting or scary.

6. Monkey drug cartel?

7. They don't all sell insurance.

8. Going au naturel.

9. The bat signal?

10. No metalheads in the pride.

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Despite the serious nature, Jourdane wanted his fieldwork drawings to be amusing and whimsical. Some of the situations were quite dangerous, but his illustrations found the humor in them based on his interviews with the scientists.

"I talked to [them] I realized that there's a lot of problems of communication with the general public about how they work, what they do," he said. So he tried to make his visual fieldwork anecdotes available to everyone: "Eleven year old children, my grandmother, friends, scientists."

11. Got it back eventually.

12. Clean-up in aisle 9.

13. How Ben Franklin started

14. International ornithology incident.

While Jourdane’s followers might not all be scientists, his illustrations provide a diverse audience with a better understanding of what scientific fieldwork really entails. Maybe it will even inspire some to get excited about scientific research, hilarious misadventures and all. Perhaps the next generation of scientists will come from the ranks of those kids who enjoyed these fieldwork fails.