When doctors investigate how our bodies work and why we get sick, it is called medical research. Medical research studies are often complex like launching a space shuttle.
As with shuttle lift off, starting a new research project requires an exorbitant amount of energy and there are a plethora of external factors that could lead to a delay. It takes an extraordinary effort to turn a good idea into a funded research project.
After the explosive start, the shuttle enters orbit and requires gentle nudges only when minor course corrections are required. Once a project is funded, investigators need to be left alone to follow their project protocols. Just as the shuttle is locked in orbit, so is the project locked in iterations each year designed to keep the project on track.
Shuttle re-entry also requires an exorbitant amount of energy to snap out of orbit. Once the project has reached its final stages and all data has been collected, it will take an extraordinary effort to analyze the data and to shift the focus of the project from following the protocol to finding the story in the data.
Landing is arguably the most delicate phase of the process. The final step in any research study is to publish the findings. The calm of orbit is replaced by addressing real world concerns of replicability and generalization. The key is to navigate the turbulence and glide gently back to earth.