A “Modern Scientist” Manifesto

The Times They Are a-Changin

Science is going through a rapid phase of transformation. Two important trends are emerging:

  1. Research is becoming more complex, requiring larger collaborations and bigger experiments.

  2. Science and technology increasingly affect modern society.

The first trend is easy to understand. Let’s think of the cumulative knowledge of humankind as a sphere. Scientists work at the surface and try to “push the boundary”. Discovery increases the volume of knowledge. As the sphere’s volume grows, so does its surface area. Therefore an ever increasing number of researchers is required to tessellate the expanding cutting-edge of science. Moreover, contrary to a few hundred years ago when the sphere of knowledge was so small that a single polymath could master large chunks of it, nowadays no human can understand the details of more than a few research topics. To capture the bigger picture and understand very complex research questions, collaborative efforts combining together a number of highly specific expertises are required.

Source: “The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.