Indian Forum for Water Adroit

The Court of Miracles of Hydrology: can failure stories contribute to hydrological science?

Pankaj Dey

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  • Institute : Indian Institute of Science
  • Programming language : MATLAB, R
In this article, we suggest that giving greater prominence to the analysis of failures and errors would more fruitfully advance the hydrological sciences. As widely recognised by philosophers of science, we can all learn from our mistakes, and errors can lead to discovery if they are properly diagnosed. However, failure stories are very seldom communicated and published, even though they represent the bulk of the results obtained by researchers and modellers. This article is the result of passionate discussions held in a workshop called the Court of Miracles of Hydrology held in Paris in June 2008. The participants had been invited to present their unpublished experience with what could be called monsters, anomalies, outliers and failures in their everyday practice of hydrology. The review of these studies clearly shows that in-depth analysis of these observations and results that deviate from the expected norm blazes a trail that can only lead to progress.