Who Knows How to Use This Thing?
Expertise is not without its value, however. With the rise of complex equipment, simplified interfaces became more and more critical in allowing the uninitiated to benefit from the latest advances. But as users become more separated from both the functioning and theory of their equipment, troubleshooting becomes more difficult as well.
In practice, most of a user's knowledge comes from an informal teaching session from one of the more experienced technicians, the manual having disappeared to parts unknown.
Some manufacturers have addressed this problem, including electronic manualettes and built-in tutorials to aid in the calibration and operation of the machine. In my own experience with operating an atomic force microscope, such courtesies are quite valuable; our lab made far fewer technical support calls after these were introduced.
Still, as the layers of abstraction between a user and their equipment grow, prevention of unintentional misuse will become a greater challenge.
I would be remiss to not mention the proliferation of broadband internet connections as a revolutionary research tool. Besides pushing out updates for equipment software and new references, internet connections connect users to experts and allow access to a treasure trove of information. Search engines and online computational tools make a world of data accessible and useful, and supplies can be quickly sourced and ordered. Software difficulties, however, can lead to more time spent troubleshooting than actually generating results.
Just as larger combines and new fertilizers allowed greater yields per farmer, research innovations permit greater harvests of data with a single researcher. But, as with any tool, it is only when they are properly applied that their benefits are realized.