Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Building upon this notion, Anna Kuchment mentioned that “all children have an inner scientist, and we need to get them in touch with their inner scientist” (Kuchment, 2013). With this in mind, cultivating curiosity and interest in the new generation of scientists is not only crucial for their emotional and intellectual development, but also important to ensure a promising future for scientific exploration and discovery. In this article, we will explore some aspects that can help in building up the next generation of scientists.
Fostering curiosity and humility in science
Encouraging every day independent thinking and creativity creates an environment that stimulates curiosity. Curiosity is defined as the desire to seek information to fill the gaps in our understanding, arising from uncertainty or ambiguity (Morris et al., 2012). This is not only the ability to come up with new ideas, but to find new ways of looking at the world and identifying different perspectives. Scientific spaces should be environments where early career scientists can feel supported, giving them the opportunity to explore and expand their own ideas.
To promote curiosity in early career scientists, we can take several effective approaches:
- Encourage freedom to explore new ideas: Allow students the freedom to develop their own ideas, this will promote passion for learning.
- Encourage questioning: This is essential for intellectual growth and curiosity. When students are prompted to question existing knowledge and assumptions, it stimulates critical thinking and motivates them to seek answers and new insights.
- Embrace student questions: Create a supportive environment where all questions are welcome and treated with respect. Avoid dismissing any inquiries, as they can lead to valuable insights.
- Culture of deeper exploration: Encourage students to dig deeper into their research topics and guide them in their investigations.
Furthermore, as scientists, it is essential to practice intellectual humility. Acknowledging that we do not have all the answers and are continuously learning helps us maintain an open and flexible mindset. This attitude reduces defensiveness and encourages us to embrace different perspectives, leading to more collaborative and enriching scientific spaces where ideas can grow collectively (Eva, L.A. 2022). By combining these approaches, we can nurture a new generation of curious, creative, and open-minded scientists who will drive progress in their fields.
Emphasize success through failure!
Securing funding is an essential part of a scientific career in academia. Applying for funding, submitting research articles, and seeking new positions, all of which are part of building an independent path in academic research. Nevertheless, these processes are far from straightforward, and rejections are very common in academic environments (Crew, B. 2019). Dealing with rejection can be challenging, and as scientists, it is essential to learn how to respond to these setbacks.
Unfortunately, there is no “handbook for scientists” that provides guidance on what to do after facing a rejection. Additionally, the scientific community often avoids discussing failures, as it is not a popular topic in a conversation. However, it is important to foster resilience in the new generation of scientists and normalize the idea that failure is a natural part of the journey to success (Bassil, K. 2018). Emphasizing this idea can help aspiring scientists navigate setbacks with confidence and determination.
Here there are some strategies to deal with rejection in science (Somasundaram, S. 2023)
- Embrace emotional resilience: Allow yourself to acknowledge and process your emotions in the face of rejection. It is normal to feel disappointed and frustrated. Give yourself the space and time to navigate these emotions. Remember that experiencing rejection is a common part of the academic process, and you are not alone in facing these challenges. Reach out to your support network during times of rejection. They may have gone through similar experiences and can offer valuable insights.
- Learn from rejection: Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from peer reviewers, grant committees or supervisors. Constructive criticism can offer invaluable insights into the weaknesses and limitations of your work. By carefully analyzing this feedback, you can identify areas for improvement and refine your research or proposals.
- Seek feedback and collaboration: Embrace opportunities for open discussions, constructive criticism, interdisciplinary exchanges, and networking. Remember that academia is a collective effort, and collaboration can lead to impactful contributions and significant advancements in your research area.
- Persevere and adapt: Revise your work based on feedback, resubmit your work to appropriate journals or funding agencies appropriate venues, explore new opportunities, and seek guidance from mentors and colleagues. Explore new avenues and alternatives for your work.
Enhancing the rewards in science
Creating supportive academic environments is crucial for empowering young scientists to pursue their objectives. Fostering a more rewarding academia is the key to keeping them motivated and dedicated throughout their journey. Here are some ways to achieve that:
- Work-life balance: This is vital for maintaining researchers’ productivity, and overall satisfaction with their careers. Creating spaces with flexible work arrangements and encouraging time off and vacations can contribute to more rewarding work.
- Research funding: Providing better salaries and support for young researchers is essential to keep them motivated and committed to their work. Offering competitive compensation and benefits not only acknowledges their contributions but also ensures they can focus on their research without the burden of economic stress.
- Professional development opportunities: Offering workshops, seminars, and training programs can enable young scientists to enhance their skills and stay up to date with the latest advancements in their field. Continuous learning and professional development contribute to a sense of progress and accomplishment in their scientific journey.
- Collaboration and mentorship: Encouraging collaboration among researchers and providing mentorship opportunities can enhance the learning experience and foster a sense of belonging within the scientific community. Mentors can offer guidance, share experiences, and provide invaluable advice to young scientists, helping them grow both professionally and personally.
Creating accessible and inclusive spaces
Creating inclusive and accessible spaces matter in all careers. In fields of science, it is crucial to address barriers related to gender, race, socioeconomic status, and disabilities that hinder equal opportunities in science. By providing equal access to resources, scholarships, and mentorship programs, we can ensure that talent and potential are nurtured regardless of background. Embracing diversity and inclusivity in academia leads to more innovative and impactful research. By fostering an inclusive culture that welcomes scientists from all backgrounds and perspectives, we can unlock the full potential of our scientific community.
Enhancing ethic spaces
The famous academic phrase “publish or perish” was first coined in 1932 (Coolidge H.J.), and it has now become a reality in the scientific community. This aspect of our system needs to be transformed. We must emphasize to new scientists the importance of dedicating time to conduct significant research rather than rushing to publish anything, as this can lead to unethical practices. Our focus should be on promoting research of higher quality, thereby fostering a generation of scientists who are deeply committed to producing not a stack of papers but meaningful contributions to their respective fields
In conclusion, building up the next generation of scientists is a collective responsibility that requires the concerted efforts of scientists and society. By fostering curiosity, providing mentorship and research opportunities, encouraging collaboration, and creating inclusive spaces, we can inspire and equip young minds to become the scientists of tomorrow.
- Kuchment, A. (2013, May 1). Save Our Science: How to Inspire a New Generation of Scientists. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/budding-scientist/save-our-science-how-to-inspire-a-new-generation-of-scientists/
- Morris, B.J., Croker, S., Masnick, A. M., & Zimmerman, C. (2012). The Emergence of Scientific Reasoning. InTech. doi: 10.5772/53885n
- Eva, A.L (2022, October 17).Four Ways to Inspire Humble Curiosity in Your Students. Greater Book Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_to_inspire_humble_curiosity_in_your_students
- Crew, B. (2019, July 5). Here’s how to deal with failure, say senior scientists. Nature Index.
- Bassil, K. 2018. How I embraced my first academic rejection. Nature. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07794-
- Somasundaram, S. (2023, June 11). How to Deal with Rejection in Research. ilovePhD. https://www.ilovephd.com/rejection-in-research/
- Coolidge HJ, editor. United States: Books for Libraries; 1932. Archibald Cary Coolidge: Life and Letters; p. 308.
About the Author
Andrea Gomez Felipe is a postdoc at the University of Montreal and a 2023 Plantae Fellow. She wants to understand the molecular, cellular and tissue level mechanisms underlying organogenesis in plants using cutting-edge approaches. Her professional interest lies in combining molecular biology, microscopy, and computational tools to elucidate specific mechanisms of plant development. Besides her research, she loves swimming, biking, hiking, and reading. You can find her on Twitter at @andreagomezfe.