When you watch classical ballet, you see dancers that appear to be flying through the air. You see women who seem to weight only 2 pounds, as the men can easily lift them up. You don’t see sweat, you don’t see hard work, and you don’t see feet that hurt. If you’ve ever attempted doing classical ballet, you know that it takes every inch of your strength to jump up, and then it probably looks only 1% as gracious as on stage.
I often think about this when I see someone present their science. It looks like they happily walked into the lab, thought of their hypothesis first, then did one Western blot, one immuno staining, and one behavioral experiment, and took the data to make beautiful figures. When I was an undergrad I honestly thought that the experiments you saw in a paper were the only experiments that people had done. Ha! Was I wrong! In reality, scientists sometimes just play around in the lab, do some experiments, and then think about how to streamline it into a paper. And my first experience in the lab was 6 months of doing a zillion Western blots, just to get a publication quality figure, which we then called a “representative” example.