When are you officially a scientist?

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When are you officially a scientist?

Post by noojens » Sat Nov 01, 2008 8:06 pm

So when are you officially a scientist?

Is it when you graduate from college with a science degree?

Is it when you publish your first paper in a peer-reviewed journal?

Is it when you get your Masters? Your PhD?

Is it when you get your first job being paid to do science?

Is it when, as a professor of mine suggested, you have contributed more knowledge to science than you've consumed?


I was talking with a few friends (grad students all) about this, and we have some pretty varied opinions. Obviously, the professor's opinion above is rather extreme -- is it even possible to contribute more to science than the cumulative efforts of Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Mendel, Euler, Einstein and the other geniuses whose ideas have been condensed down into the textbooks we've read?

Personally, I think being a scientist is a state of mind -- a way of interacting with and learning about the world. It's a spirit of curiosity, a drive to explore and observe, the humility to change even your most firmly-held ideas if the evidence contradicts them, and the notion that the strength of an idea lies in how well it fits observable facts. Ironically, grad school is sapping most of those qualities out of me -- but maybe that's just the stress talking :)

What do all you future (present?) scientists think?
Last edited by noojens on Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by Kaiser_Sose » Mon Nov 03, 2008 1:11 am

I've wondered at this myself and as is the case for most words, it means different things to different people. I decided that I'll consider myself a scientist when I make enough money "doing" science to support myself.

I don't call myself a scientist now because, even though I make money doing science, it's not near enough to support myself.

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by WontonBurritoMeals » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:02 am

I consider Science a discipline of philosophy, so pretty much in alignment with you Kaiser. But for clarity, I call myself a professional scientist to my friends to sound cool.

May the wind be always at your back,

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by secander2! » Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:28 am

hmmm, I always thought that being a scientist just required "doing science", and I figured "doing science" just meant using the scientific method to extend human knowledge. Haha, but now I realize that I haven't really said anything new here since noojens' description of a scientist is one who follows the evidence and uses it to challenge and corroborate ideas, i.e. one who uses the scientific method.

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by murs » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:46 pm

I'd have to say that you become a scientist when you make a discovery of something new. This is getting rarer and rarer these days, but there is still plenty of new knowledge to be discovered, even if it is just the 52nd digit of boltzman's constant.

As for becoming a scientist when you make enough money to support yourself doing science, I'm not sure I agree. Some great science has been done by people doing science as a hobby, such as Lord Kelvin (William Thomson). Even Einstein published his papers as a hobby while working as a patent clerk.

Just my $.02

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by LucasWillis » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:14 pm

I'd say you're a scientist when you are actively pursuing new research. You don't need to be published, necessarily. We're not talking about when can you call yourself a "good" scientist.

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by metric » Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:49 pm

As Von Braun said, I guess you're doing science when you don't know what you're doing. And probably you're doing new science when you look for references and you find none, or when you have no idea who to ask about the problem you've found.

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by twistor » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:37 pm

Thursdays, from 10am to 4pm. The rest of the time I am a mild-mannered reporter.

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Re: When are you officially a scientist?

Post by zxcv » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:35 am

When you're on the arXiv. woot!

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