I’m starting a new research project which isn’t exactly so new. My advisor used to be working on it back when he was doing R&D with one of the Major Computer Companies of the past decade (hint: they do mostly software nowadays, but used to be big dogs in the chip industry). I asked him for some background reading so I could get caught up on where they were when he stopped, and he gave me a few binders full of info: review articles, patents, publications, etc.
The interesting thing is that these are all the original copies of the papers that he and his team were reading as they were working, so they’ve got all sorts of comments sprawled in the margins and on sticky notes. After a while the personalities of each guy in the group starts to come through, and so I’ve actually been paying more attention to the running commentary than the papers themselves. There’s the guy who always calls bullshit on minor points of a paper, the one who suggests using some techniques on their projects, and the guy who just likes underlining stuff in red.
You can tell they were doing some cutting edge stuff by the comments they make on other groups’/companies’ stuff. One of the guys on the team, we’ll call him Dirk, was particularly anxious a lot of the time. Pretty much all his comments are some variation of “We need to work faster!” scrawled on the front of some other people’s article.
My favorite comment, far and away, is from Dirk on a sticky note attached to a new patent:
“This is because we were too slow!!! (Especially Campbell!)”
Poor Campbell. I bet it was payback for some hilarious prank he pulled on Dirk the week before.