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Synthesizing information from research

More than a century ago, the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Lord Rayleigh, commented on the need to set the results of new research in the context of other relevant evidence:

‘If, as is sometimes supposed, science consisted in nothing but the laborious accumulation of facts, it would soon come to a standstill, crushed, as it were, under its own weight . . . Two processes are thus at work side by side, the reception of new material and the digestion and assimilation of the old; and as both are essential we may spare ourselves the discussion of their relative importance . . . The work which deserves, but I am afraid does not always receive, the most credit is that in which discovery and explanation go hand in hand, in which not only are new facts presented, but their relation to old ones is pointed out.’

Rayleigh, Lord. In: Report of the fifty-fourth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; held at Montreal in August and September 1884. London: John Murray, 1884: pp3-23.