Are you a good scientist?

  • Qian-Chen Yong
  • May 13, 2018

After reading the title, the first thing that might occur in your brain is that, what is the definition of ‘good scientist’ and how about ‘bad scientist’?


Let’s focus on the definition of “good scientist”. There are many definitions for the adjective “good”. However when we are trying to describe a professional as “good”, the “good” usually means “competent”, “skillful” and/or “have the quality to fulfill the responsibility for a particular role”. Just like, when we say ‘he is a good doctor’, we mean that he is good at diagnosing and treating diseases (or other medical conditions). Therefore, if we consider the main responsibility of a scientist is to discover new and true knowledge, a ‘good scientist’ means that this scientist is able to discover new and true knowledge. In other words, if a scientist manipulates and produces unreliable data and, therefore useless knowledge, this scientist is not a good scientist. We can call this kind of scientist as “bad scientist” because this scientist does not have the quality to fulfill the responsibility for his role.


Let’s not be confused with bad scientist with evil scientist. Evil scientists are usually refer to those scientists in the past who carried out experiments in evil ways, for examples, scientists who use human as test subjects for chemical weapons. They are definitely evil, but, according to the definition mentioned above, they may still be good scientists if the data they produced were reliable. However, bad scientists are completely waste of everybody’s time, including the time of the bad scientist. Bad scientists waste all the resources to produce data that are useless and misleading.


So, why a bad scientist want to be a scientist in the first place? Don’t they feel guilty over what they do? As far as I know, they feel guilty, more or less. However, this is their career on the stake. If they can’t be as “efficient” as other bad scientists in “producing” data, they will likely lose the game of securing funding and hence their jobs. Except for some psychopath-level of bad scientists, most of scientists who committed data manipulation probably also constantly questioning their own integrity while they are cherry-picking their data.


IF you are manipulating your data, stop now. If you have done before, please stop it now. If you think you’d lose your job without manipulating your data, then maybe you’re not working on something that is real. Consider to work on something else: a totally different focus of research, or start a business or change to another career path! Obviously, you are smart enough to make your data looked real without being caught, you will have no problem to succeed in something that can really contribute to the society.


For the rest of us, please promote good scientists around you to encourage them to continue to do the right thing and become the role model for our next generation of young scientists. Let’s also review scientists around us and stop bad scientists to continue wasting the resources that could help good scientists to make real discovery.

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