Category: Science culture & integrity

Confidence and Anxiety – Doing Science While Human

I think self-confidence is an essential ingredient of doing well in science, but it’s not discussed enough. I have thought about confidence a lot because I don’t always have it. I’m over 50 years old and have published plenty of papers, but often enough I doubt myself. I have this intermittent, but deep-seated worry that maybe my science isn’t so great. Sometimes I get pretty nervous before giving a talk (which I do my best to hide) even though I enjoy lecturing. This long-lived impostor syndrome is frustrating, but it’s part of who I am.
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In praise of incremental science; down with heroic science

Count me among the weak of science.

Here I am again, feeling defensive, irate at reviewer critiques of our recent sub-Nobel prize work. Only in this case, the reviews are in my mind, yet to arrive. In fact, we haven’t even drafted the paper yet! But I can foresee what will happen. After all, if I’m honest, our contribution is clearly incremental.

Is it a failure? Were my expectations way off, again?
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Required Reading for Scientists on Race and Gender

Did you know that you can significantly change women’s performance on a challenging math test simply by providing a different explanation of the purpose of the test up front? And the same for Black students? Did you know there are ways to give advice and feedback that are demonstrated to improve performance in groups that suffer from (unconscious but inevitable) internalization of stereotypes? I learned these facts just a few weeks ago and find them astonishing. How can these crazy but simple things be true, and more importantly, why don’t most of us – professional scientists – know about them?

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Do we have a gender problem?

Ten days after I made this post, the New York Times published a related piece suggesting that one gender was more likely to up-sell their work with self-congratulatory description. (Guess which one?) This made me think more about the gender issue in our own field. Have something to say on this issue? Write me: I hope to do a post on this in the future, ideally relating the experiences of several individuals, anonymously if they wish. I will be at the Biophysics meeting in San Diego Monday and Tuesday if anyone wants to talk about it.

Should we believe your abstract?

How many times has our community solved the sampling problem? I think it’s a fair question. You know I’m talking about claims rather than actual solutions. And many if not most of those claims are made in the abstracts of papers, even when the data paints a more limited story. I think our abstracts are the problem.

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