Why are you a scientist? 

Apr 27 2015 Published by under Academics, Careerism, Conduct of Science

From the Twitts.....

Me, I think I never got past "I wonder what that does?" 

33 responses so far

  • AcademicLurker says:

    For the excellent employment outlook and job stability, obviously...

  • Dave says:

    Yeh, I'm in it for the fast cash, party lifestyle and job prospects. I mean, who wouldn't want this job????

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    I liked universities. Also, the stability of an academic gig appealed.

  • Philapodia says:

    I hate having others tell me what to do, I like being the boss and telling others what to do, and I love setting my own hours. Hmm.. I should probably run a business instead, there's more job security, better pay, and you can advertise to increase your revenue stream. The skill sets are about the same as running a lab, so it may work...

  • becca says:

    Hookers and blow. I'm in it for the hookers and blow.

    Or, you know. The fact I can take any two arbitrary keywords (such as "prostitution" and "cocaine" and Pubmed them and find something I want to read about. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24521524)

  • anonymouse says:

    Because I couldn't get into med school to become a real doctor.

  • Bill Hooker says:

    "I'm in it for the hookers and blow."

    Here I am. Where's the blow?

  • odyssey says:

    I don't want to stop being a student.

  • meshugena313 says:

    blowing shit up to see what happens would have been my reason if I were a chemist, but I'm not one. I personally love serendipitous discovery of something totally cool - either by searching on pubmed for hookers and blow or by a random experiment that gives the opposite result from our hypothesis or something else completely unexpected.

  • Grumble says:

    I had a choice between GI and PI and I flipped a coin.

  • Ass(isstant) Prof says:

    I am in it because "I wonder how that works" or "What made that go so badly?"

    Income stability (like when the state decides to freeze public employee salaries), flexible hours (you can choose any 14 hours you want to work today), and work/family balance (kids can help with experiments, too), are all additional perks. Or something like that.

  • Jonathan Badger says:

    I think I never got past "I wonder what that does?"

    I thought you liked to complain about basic-science "wackaloons" that are motivated by pure curiosity like that...

  • drugmonkey says:

    I thought you liked to complain about basic-science "wackaloons" that are motivated by pure curiosity like that...

    really? you need to read more carefully and with less reflexive basic science butthurt if you think this.

    What I find is that I have very little trouble fitting my own "I wonder what that does" into the actual mission of the NIH.

    I don't have any problem with scientists who have non-NIH-relevant curiosity, but the ones that insist the NIH should support *their own* interests instead of the NIH's interests are narcissistic and stupid. I have little patience with them on that issue. But I have no problem with the fact that this is what motivates them in science, which is what JB seems to be on about.

    "One Aim for me, two Aims for them...sounds like a plan."TM

  • jmz4gtu says:

    "kids can help with experiments, too"
    -Kids can *be* the experiments.

    I'm in it because literally every other job that isn't divining new information seems boring and ultimately pointless. A lifetime of research makes for a worthwhile, enduring posterity, while being intellectually satisfying and respectable.

    @AL
    You know not all scientists are in academia, right?

  • Asian Quarterback says:

    I'm in to weed out the riff-raff.

  • SidVic says:

    Who adds anything new to the world? Very Very few. In art and culture it is increasing difficult to achieve. I think that should be a touchstone. As a scientist, one has the privilege to make original contributions to the compendium of human knowledge. ahem, well at least some do.

  • Brain says:

    because the emphasis is more on problem solving rather than memorization....and also because I don't ever have to wear a tie.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    Because I got bad career advice when I was an undergraduate.

  • ninacat says:

    to add to the steps along the road that leads to a mechanism, a cure, an answer to "I wonder why...?"
    Because I love everything about investigating, observing, hypothesizing--could have been a CSI, except for that minor detail of the dead bodies..
    Because, with all the issues and BS, it's still more rewarding than most day jobs

  • dsks says:

    My acting career didn't really take off as I hoped.

  • katiesci says:

    This explains it perfectly for me.

    https://xkcd.com/242/

  • Namesaste_Ish says:

    Happy people doing the work they love
    Stable career,
    Interesting meetings with people passionate science
    Better than waitressing ,
    Esteem our society holds scientists ,
    A field where logic will always win regardless of you sex/age/gender ,

  • pyrope says:

    @katiesci - I have that cartoon on my door 🙂

  • katiesci says:

    @pyrope: me too!

  • former staff scientist says:

    When I was an undergraduate in the early 90s, the NSF was predicting a huge shortage of PhDs in the life sciences around the turn of the century. As we know, that prediction certainly came to pass. It seems about time for another one of those predictions to keep graduate student enrollment up.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    "I don't have any problem with scientists who have non-NIH-relevant curiosity, but the ones that insist the NIH should support *their own* interests instead of the NIH's interests are narcissistic and stupid. "
    -Do you think the NIH does a good enough job defining their interests (in terms of their congressional mandate) that reviewers can use these as guidelines? Or do you think the NIH's interests largely just reflect the interests of the people sitting on study sections?

    I ask because I think that a large part of why people become scientists is to explore and solve big questions, but the NIH has us bogged down in very incremental science, in order to fill out the preliminary data for grant applications.
    Do you think this push for preliminary data came from the NIH or the study section reviewers?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I think it is an emergent property of a system that became increasingly competitive. The inevitable response is for the system to get increasingly self-referential. Unless a heavy hand checks this tendency.

    Remember too that a lot of what we think of as bad review behavior that just reinforces a cycle of "the rich get richer" comes from the entirely admirable goal of trying to be fair and objective.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Do you think the NIH does a good enough job defining their interests (in terms of their congressional mandate) that reviewers can use these as guidelines? Or do you think the NIH's interests largely just reflect the interests of the people sitting on study sections?

    I am pretty much a believer in the multi-input process that governs NIH grant selection. Program interests, Congressional mandates and peer review all play an important role in keeping the system more or less on track as I think it should be headed.

    I believe that people who assert that any one of these inputs has "too much influence now, totally different from before" are delusional and that this is mostly coming from a place of "I have difficulty getting the funding I want right now" than from any sort of well-considered and data-backed rationale.

    I do not think the process is perfect in practice by any means. But the structure is a good one.

  • Jonathan Badger says:

    One Aim for me, two Aims for them...sounds like a plan

    Which is pretty much what the NSF crowd does as well, only with economic aims replacing the health ones. Fair enough.

  • qaz says:

    Why am I a scientist? Because when you realize something new, when your student comes in and tells you the data are showing something impossible, when you realize two different phenomena are really the same thing under a parameter change, when you realize why the data are showing that impossible thing and it's because it's not impossible.... because that moment of discovery, that's a high like no other.

    I'll take that addiction any day of the week.

  • Geo says:

    The thrill of it all.

  • radscientist says:

    Because I want to think up interesting questions, have my army of minions bring me the answers, and use the data to ask new and even cooler questions. (Note, I haven't gotten to this point yet, but I'm still hoping for it someday!)

  • Mateo says:

    Why? Because people fascinate me. Every person a world unto themselves.
    The complexity of the being which informs a person's every life decision, everything that has made that person who they are.
    That's why. Because every time I talk to someone and learn something new about the mind, I need to know more.

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