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Published in 1979, Advice to a Young Scientist is a practical and philosophical guide to curious people engaged in exploratory activities.
The author, Peter Medawar, was a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, and a lively, witty writer. The book had several key insights for young explorers so that they don’t get lost in their journey.
For real progress, a novice must be willing to give up their best ideas when they are revealed as groundless.
One should learn how to take no for an answer and understand that failure is part of their exploration.
It is always better to go for important problems instead of dull, useless problems no one cares about.
Conventional advice tells us to follow our passion, but it is better to go for gold, tackling the crucial issues. Once we are in the process, it will become something we are passionate about.
While starting a new endeavour, the logical course of action is to accumulate maximum information. This is not feasible according to the author, as time is limited and one cannot go on learning new techniques before beginning the research work.
A better course of action is to start and learn whatever is necessary, letting the urgency of your work guide your learning.
Extensive reading also becomes counterproductive when there is no implementation of knowledge.
Getting results is important if one needs to build confidence and see the visible manifestation of one’s hard work.
Effective scientific collaboration is about creating an environment that develops and expands upon the ideas of the various collaborators. The joint idea is not a mediocre ‘design by committee’ but something greater than the sum of its parts.
One has to put aside the ego and become self-aware, not hankering for credit. Being generous towards giving away ideas is for the greater good of society.
If a young scientist suspects that their endeavour might lead to something bad for mankind, one should not start it. It is also in the best interests of society to stay righteous.
We ourselves are the easiest to fool, being most susceptible to self-deception, and then moving towards deceiving other people. It is best to be respectful and stay away from criticizing or habitually disbelieving others.
The best environment to be creative is a quiet and stable life. A scientist does not need anxiety, privacy invasion, distress or emotional harassment. E
nsure that the environment is safe, where one can share anything with others and can have open discussions.
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