by Sunu Pradana on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 7:40pm
I’m at a conference and I have noticed something that I have seen before: the top scientists are surprisingly nice. Now I wasn’t quite completely sure if this was true but at least some of my friends thought the same thing. Here’s is what happened. I’m at a conference that is a bit outside of my normal field, so I do not know most people but I certainly saw a lot of famous names of people who have published major papers in the field. I would muster my courage and just walk up to these famous people and say something pleasant to break the ice. Their reply typically is very courteous and you can see their eyes flitter to your conference badge immediately followed by a question like “where is Strathclyde?” Typically, you end up talking very pleasantly about science. In different situations I have found that top scientist tend to reply to your emails quickly, are happy to send you reprints (quickly), are happy to tell you about what they are doing.There are multiple conclusions you could draw. Perhaps nice people become top scientists. Or perhaps scientists, once they reach the top, become nice. Or perhaps in order to become a top scientist, one has to display a certain degree of niceness. My feeling is that a good scientist has to network, get to know a lot of people and be known by a lot of people, in order to flourish. It is very easy to make jokes about world-shy nerdy scientists locked up in some basement lab but in reality scientist have to be very sociable and amicable. Thus, despite the fact that scientists have to be rude, they also have to be nice.
by Klaas Wynne