Go on... you know you want to because, as scientists, it’s a built-in imperative. Just by bringing it up, Russ Swan triggers the irrational need to take a personality test (aaargh!)...
All life scientists on the Lab News circulation may now take a brief moment to polish their halos before continuing
This might seem like something a middle manager would challenge you with and can be very day- and time-dependent but "Where's your motivation?” According to some (possibly questionable) research that has just passed over my desk, your motivation as a scientist has a lot to do with what type of scientist you are. Different disciplines within the vast universe of science apparently have differing views on incentives.
It has been said before – possibly even in this column – that the demands of different disciplines might be reflected in the scientists that occupy them. Research physicists often work in large collaborative teams and so need to be good communicators and gregarious personalities. Biologists, on the other hand, might spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation of solitary research, gazing down a microscope or running a mass spec.
Stereotypes are nonsense, by the way, but that doesn't stop our human obsession with them. Redheads have fiery tempers (we do NOT and don’t you DARE ever say that again!), politicians are self-serving degenerates (only some of them), and scientists have more degrees than a hot thermometer.
The briefly fashionable Myers Briggs personality typing system is also nonsense, or pseudo-psychobabble if you prefer. It categorises the population into 16 types, each identified by a four-letter code. Despite being widely discredited, it remains popular with some major employers, who think they can hammer the correctly shaped peg into an appropriate hole this way. If you want to know your type, a quick internet search will provide an online test. You can do the official MBPT for 50 dollars, or a free one which is neither more nor less credible. Because they are all nonsense. Four of the 16 personality types are supposed to equate to scientists, and their four-letter type codes all end in TP. How validating to find those two characters at the end of the test then. But, how invalidating if they are absent.
Yes of course I did. I'm ENTP, a theory-driven adventurer. Indiana Jones, that's me.
More recently scientists have been categorised by their level of commercial involvement and propensity to file patents. Professor Henry Sauermann of the European School of Management and Technology, writing in Management Science, reckons he can tell life scientists from physical scientists from engineers by their differing desires for peer recognition, money, intellectual challenge, and social impact.
I mean, aren't we all just in it for the money really? I swear I can hear hollow laughter ringing out from laboratories around the country right now.
Prof Sauermann says that life scientists are motivated by the desire for social impact, to make the world a better place. The more motivated have significantly higher patent count but are not driven by potential cash generation. All life scientists on the Lab News circulation may now take a brief moment to polish their halos before continuing.
Physical scientists, including chemists and mathematicians, are less likely to patent, instead getting their kicks through beating an intellectual challenge and winning the respect of peers. He suggests that being seen to have a commercial interest might even blemish the careers of this group.
And our much respected friends and colleagues the engineers? More likely to patent, and completely comfortable to profit from them....