Simon Dubé is a PhD candidate in Psychology specializing in human sexuality, sextech, and Erobotics – the study of human-machine erotic interaction and co-evolution. His work also explores Space Sexology, and how we can integrate sex research into space programs. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the Université de Montréal in 2016. He is a Student Representative of the "International Academy of Sex Research" and a General Co-Chair of the "International Congress on Love & Sex with Robots". His doctoral research is funded by the "Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé".
How to move new (scientific) ideas forward: A recipe from 21st century sexology
Regardless of the domain, moving new ideas forward is hard. As sex researchers, we are acutely aware of this fact. Sex is often first to mind, but last to be studied. Yet, my team and I are trying to change that. In the last five years, we’ve been trying to bring sexology—the science of human sexuality—to some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: space exploration and the technological revolution.
And we’ve developed a recipe for it.
Sexuality drives our cultures and relationships. Historically, however, studying it or implementing resources to improve sexual health has been difficult. It’s debated, hard to fund, and always seems to run into red tape. This creates situations where human sexuality is only prioritized and addressed when issues arise. To break this cycle, my colleagues and I have created two new scientific fields of research: erobotics and space sexology. Erobotics is the study of human-machine erotic interaction and space sexology is the study of extraterrestrial intimacy and sexuality. Here is how we did it.
We hope this recipe helps you advance innovative ideas in your own fields.
Step 1: Take the plunge
You don’t have to create a new field of research, but you’ve got to dive in.
I have met many bright scholars who had game-changing ideas, but simply did not follow through. Don’t be that person. Despite what others say, if you feel strongly about an idea—a wrong that needs to be right, a discovery that needs to be uncovered—go for it.
And if you don’t know where to start, start with step 2.
Step 2: Read, write, think
To change something, you must understand it. To understand it, you must read. It’s unlikely that you have come up with a totally new idea. People much smarter and wiser than you probably have considered this topic before. Get to know them by reading everything you can.
While reading, take notes and write! Writing is thinking. It structures your ideas and helps digest complex information. Also, great ideas are hard to come by—and you will forget them! So, write them down. Most of them might be garbage, but you only need one good idea to change a field forever.
As you read and write, identify gaps—find out what has prevented your field from moving forward—and think!
Do yoga. Take a walk. Grab a drink with friends and talk. Anything to get the brain juice flowing. Think deeply about a problem from various points of view. Try to explain concepts and phenomena to yourself and others. And don’t forget to fuel this thinking with more reading and writing.
Finally, build a bank of names. This will help you grasp who the main actors in your area are. And it will be useful for step 3.
Step 3: Build your network
Collaboration is the name of the game. You can’t know or do everything. You need a team. You need a network of collaborators with whom to exchange ideas, find resources, and create opportunities. To help with this, my advice is to organize an event and publish an op-ed.
Organizing an event—like a colloquium or round table—will bring experts together and get the conversation going. It will also provide a platform for you to learn more about a subject, receive feedback on your ideas, and forge new collaborations. On the other hand, writing an op-ed—an opinion piece—will get your ideas out and attract potential collaborators. As an order of magnitude, my most popular academic paper has 6000 views, while my most popular op-ed has 130 000 views. Which one do you think has more chances of bringing attention to my work?
Organizing events and publishing op-eds open doors. Why? Because it shows initiative, it can reach both scholars and the public, and it helps establish your leadership in a given area. It is also much faster than academic publication—the speed of which is often completely out of touch with reality. Lastly, it builds momentum as you prepare step 4.
Step 4: Write that big paper
Be bold. Write that review, meta-analysis, foundational article, call for action, or book you've always dreamed of. It’s going to take time, years even. But do it.
Reserve time each week to work on that big paper. It doesn't have to be a lot. It just needs to be constant. This paper will keep you up to speed with the latest research and force you to hold a bird’s-eye view of your own field. An important quality given that we can lose ourselves in the details of everyday work.
This big paper will likely put you on the map. So, give it the passion and diligence it deserves.
Step 5: Get the word out
You are competing in the attention economy. People’s attention is divided into a million things: wars, pandemics, climate change, work, money, family, friends, art, cats, love, sex…. You must grab their attention. Otherwise, they won’t listen.
To compete in this attention economy, it’s not enough to present your results at conferences or publish in peer-reviewed journals. You need to leverage all the tools at your disposal to deliver your message to the greatest number of people. That means, wielding the power of the media.
Beyond op-eds, this may include blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and interviews for radios, journals, TV shows, and documentaries. It also requires you to share your content on social media. The power of the media not only resides in providing visibility to your work, but also in making science accessible to the public. This is essential given that research is largely funded by taxpayers. As such, people outside academia deserve to know how their money is spent and access knowledge in a format that they can understand.
The more you do that, the more opportunities will come to you.;
Rinse and repeat
Dive in. Update your knowledge. Find new ideas. Expand your network. Write big pieces. Promote your work. Build momentum. And don’t forget to surround yourself with the right people.
Erobotics and space sexology would not be possible without my brilliant and loving friends, mentors, colleagues, family, and partner.
So, make it fun! Otherwise, what’s the point?