It’s Friday, and nearly the end of the month. Think back over the last week, the last few weeks. Have you been a science grouch? I know I have. Perhaps you’ve complained about the lack of job opportunities in science? Your paper got bad reviews? Your sequencing failed? Or something else…? If I look back, honestly, I am confident that I must have had conversations almost every day this month, in real life or on Twitter, that have involved some sort of science grouchiness.
But hang on… if science is so terrible, why do we do it? Very few of the scientists I know are in this to make their fortunes, or for the long-term job security… So what motivates us to keep going? I can’t speak for everyone, but I know why I followed this career path. I love the thrill of discovery, the challenges and creativity of problem-solving, the camaraderie with my sciencey friends, and the fact that I get paid to study the wildlife that I love. And sometimes, when I’m at my grouchy worst, I need only a little reminder of those things to cheer me up again.
Today that reminder came from the very first, very preliminary look at a new DNA sequence dataset. I’ve spent almost a year planning and setting up this little project, which is just one component of my work. It will probably take another month or so to fully explore and interpret the data and decide what to do next. But right now, this afternoon, a few minutes of analysis has shown me that the idea was sound, the initial results make sense and hopefully in the end this work will contribute usefully to wildlife management. That’s a nice way to end the week!
So, this afternoon I went to the pub, to celebrate this small win at Friday drinks with my colleagues. But I’m also going to celebrate it online, and I’m going to make an extra effort to celebrate future wins online as well. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t grumble on social media, or discuss the negative aspects of science. Such discussions can be cathartic, can connect people with similar problems and can prompt people to make changes for the better. But if all I do is grumble, I’m not presenting a realistic view of my experience of science as a whole. Which is a shame, because platforms like Twitter provide us with great opportunities to break down the stereotypes surrounding science to show the world who we are and what we really do. For example, if you really want to get an insight into the wilder side of life as a biologist, check out #fieldworkfail, #labworkfail, #bitten4science and this week’s R rated hit reproductive biology hashtag #junkoff.
Which brings me to another series of tweets from earlier this year, instigated by the inspirational Professor Kathy Belov (@KathyBelov). Kathy wanted to focus on celebrating the good things in science, using the hashtag #sciencejoy. I think it is time to revive that hashtag. My new challenge to myself is to share at least one #sciencejoy moment each week. Perhaps you’d like to join me…?
NB edited 31/08/2015 to include a picture of the wonderful 3D printed #ScienceJoy hashtag made for me by my colleague Bernd Gruber.