Character traits of “excellent” scientists

Honesty and curiosity are the most important traits underlying excellent science, according to a survey of around 400 members of elite US scientific societies, such as the National Academy of Sciences. A pilot study led by survey co-organizer Robert Pennock, a philosopher at Michigan State University in East Lansing, had previously identified the ten most widely held values among scientists who have been honoured by their peers for being exemplary. Although honesty and curiosity dominated, these virtues also included perseverance, objectivity and the willingness to abandon a preferred hypothesis in the face of conflicting evidence .

Little empirical research has been done to learn what traits scientists value most in one another, says Pennock, and this work indicates a high level of consensus among elite US researchers about what is important for the practice of science. He thinks that training programmes that emphasize such shared scientific values are likely to be more effective than are those that focus on compliance with official rules of behaviour; 94% of the scientists surveyed felt that scientific virtues can be learned.

Read the full article in Nature

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