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Top Scientists Share Values

by Andrea Widener
February 22, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 8

Honor and curiosity are the most important personal values to top natural scientists, a new study shows. Authors Robert T. Pennock of Michigan State University and Jon D. Miller of the University of Michigan wanted to identify the values that scientists find most important and seek to cultivate in their students. The researchers interviewed almost 500 scientists across many disciplines who had been honored by their peers, such as members of the National Academy of Sciences and fellows of the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN. The researchers presented the scientists with a set of 10 personal values to evaluate. In the ranking, honesty and curiosity came out on top, followed by attentiveness, perseverance, objectivity, and humility to evidence. Collaboration ranked lowest, but the authors suggested that might be because collaboration is more important in some research fields than others. “If you’re not curious, you’re probably not a real scientist,” says Pennock, who presented the work at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this month. “The goal that you have is to find out something true about the world, regardless of what your preferred hypothesis might be.”


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