Quoted for truth


From The Seattle 500 Women Scientists:

Despite the popular myth of the lone-wolf genius scientist, science is an inherently social, collaborative endeavor. Intensive scientific training involves close collaboration with a senior advisor. Most scientists can trace their “academic genealogy” through generations linked by formative relationships. Scientific papers typically include many authors who work together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. Conferences and workshops where scientists mingle are petri dishes of new ideas and partnerships—they are nurseries and laboratories for future scientific communities. Scientific progress depends directly on the ability of scientists to discuss, argue, collaborate, and build upon on the knowledge of others.

Yes! I tell my students this: I explain to them that they have to work in teams in lab because that’s the only way they’ll ever succeed in this career.

Comments

  1. nomdeplume says

    Not just a popular myth, but a myth constantly promoted in the media, in films, in tv, in novels, in children’s books. The lone wolf/solitary genius model matches exactly the clickbait-style “this discovery will mean all the science books have to be rewritten” news headlines about some minor discovery. Mind you it is also encouraged by the desperate search for research funding which turns minor premature findings into fundamental discoveries, and it is encouraged by the kind of supervisor who insists on taking credit for the work of postgrad students, and by the kind of scientist who doesn’t thoroughly search or refer to the previous work in the field. In turn it encourages the idea among the Dunning-Kruger amateurs that they can also make discoveries that will turn, say, climate science, on its head.

    The reality of the generations of people that precede you in science, and of the teamwork that goes into most research, is apparently impossible to get across to the general public.

  2. says

    But what if you’re a rebel who breaks all the rules to discover “one weird trick” that cures cancer, wrinkles, and hang-nails??? Have we learned nothing from television?

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I don’t dismiss single author articles, but I do give them a very jaundiced look. Especially from minor journals.

  4. eleanor says

    Yes! I was talking about this with my eleven-year-old daughter yesterday (bouncing off a question about how humans started to use and control electricity). I think it’s inevitable that younger kids are taught the history of science in terms of ‘this great person discovered X, and then that great person discovered Y…’, because that’s an age-appropriate way of introducing them to ideas through human interest. But it’s so vital that they start to get a broader and deeper view as they grow up.

  5. cartomancer says

    The ancient “great men” model of biography casts a long shadow, it seems.

    Though the sciences do tend to be a lot more collaborative than the humanities, at least in terms of the day-to-day work of it all. Historians and literary scholars will read and modify and take into account the work of others in their field. They will attend conferences and symposia and the like, and peer review articles and books. But the vast majority of work is conducted by lone scholars in libraries as a solo effort. Depending on the field, of course – archaeologists tend to collaborate a lot more, philosophers a lot less, for instance. And there is collaboration in university departments to organize teaching.

    Mind you, the humanities tend to have much less by way of the “maverick genius” culture too – both within academia and in the eyes of the general public. Most people can reel off a list of “great scientists” if pressed – Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Einstein, etc. – but challenge them to name the great historians or great classicists of the last few hundred years and there will be much scratching of heads and straining for little reward. Winckelmann, Mommsen, Syme and Murray are hardly household names. Virtually nobody would be able to make a suggestion for the greatest Medievalist of the 20th Century.

  6. joehoffman says

    Those lone geniuses really did exist, but all the science that can be found that way has been found. They’re obsolete.
    Cartomancer – J.R.R. Tolkien would win “greatest Medievalist of the 20th Century” in a walk.

  7. lumipuna says

    Mind you, the humanities tend to have much less by way of the “maverick genius” culture too – both within academia and in the eyes of the general public. Most people can reel off a list of “great scientists” if pressed – Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Einstein, etc. – but challenge them to name the great historians or great classicists of the last few hundred years and there will be much scratching of heads and straining for little reward. Winckelmann, Mommsen, Syme and Murray are hardly household names. Virtually nobody would be able to make a suggestion for the greatest Medievalist of the 20th Century.

    I suspect most people only know about Newton, Einstein etc. because basic science education in schools and universities tends to include some history of science. The meanings of these names then get amplified and distorted in popular media.

    Basic history education doesn’t seem to include any history of history – I guess it’d be too confusing to the students or something. Plus there’s little time invested in teaching ancient/medieval history in the first place. Science is generally seen as more important than humanities.

  8. npb596 says

    @Charly
    This is in response to a post in the Anthony Bourdain thread, which I’m having technical issues accessing. I’m sure that will lead to my criticism here but I believe strongly enough in my message of black empowerment that I won’t take that sitting down.

    You already singled out the U.S. as disproving my point. I made the obvious point then that I was referring to police brutality all over the world and now you are singling out individual countries as disproving my point again. What are you missing? Add up all the countries and there is an insane amount of racially motivated police brutality. As for Zimbabwe, two points. Firstly, there is such a thing as internalized racism. Zimbabwe was colonized by European imperialists in the past. Secondly, even majority black cities like Detroit and Memphis still suffer from white-on-black police brutality so being majority black, as Zimbabwe is, doesn’t make you immune, unfortunately. You seem to have a single-minded focus on my one hyperbolic statement that millions are killed every day. Yes, it was hyperbole, a common and usually uncontroversial rhetorical tool. Are you going to keep sitting here and saying that police brutality isn’t a problem because of how “few” black people are actually being killed? Since I’ve been asked to I will provide links in the off chance any of you are actually willing to engage with this issue.

    Germany

    Zimbabwe

    I assume your response will be something like “oh comon, ONLY that many blacks killed? You were wrong haha” thus proving my point that you all really couldn’t care less about innocent black people dying for no good reason. That is the sad thing here. That is why I keep repeating my point and “trolling” (which is to say, sincerely trying to acknowledge a real problem with the world, not what most would call trolling but for some reason what most on this site would call trolling).

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