10 commandments…?

I was browsing through my list of arXiv papers this morning, when I stumbled across a rather interesting title. Sitting there amidst the usual selection of papers about circumstellar disks and planetary nebulae, I spied this —
2010arXiv1009.4891F: Ferrín: “SCIENTIST 10 COMMANDMENTS”

Intrigued, I took a closer look. While the abstract of “Describes 10 rules that should be followed by scientist.” may sound a little befuddling, this document is simply some good advice for scientists to follow. So seeing as this diminutive document is in the public domain, I thought I may as well reproduce it here. Because, well, why not?


1) Go to your laboratory or your instrument without any pre-conceived ideas.
Just register what you saw faithfully.

2) Report promptly and scientifically. Check your numbers twice before

3) Forget about predictions. They maybe wrong.

4) Do not try to conform or find agreement with others. You may be the first
to be observing a new phenomenon and you may risk missing credit for
the discovery.

5) Criticism must be scientific, respectful, constructive, positive and
unbiased. Otherwise it must be done privately.

6) If you want to be respected, respect others first. Do no use insulting or
humiliating words when referring to others. It is not in accord with
scientific ethics.

7) Do not cheat. Cheating in science is silly. When others repeat your
experiment or observation, they will find that you were wrong.

8) If you do not know or if you have made a mistake, admit it immediately.
You may say: “I do not know but I will find out”. Or “I will correct it
immediately”. No scientist knows the answer to everything. By admitting
it you are being honest about your knowledge and your abilities.

9) Do not appropriate or ignore other people’s work or results. Always give
credit to others whatever small their contribution may have been. Do not
do unto others what you would not like to be done unto you.

10) Do not stray from scientific ethics.

Ignacio Ferrín, Ph. D.

The original document (with more details about the author) is available here.

I find it rather refreshing to see something like this in my reading list from time to time. Amongst the general advice on being a good scientist, it’s good to know that not everyone out there is content to read scientific papers which conclude with something along the lines of “our work agrees with previous models and predictions.” In my humble opinion, science shouldn’t be about choosing the safe option or proving that everything’s correct in the work that’s out there already. Science should be about trying to uncover the flaws in the work that’s out there already! If you don’t expose the flaws, then how can we ever be expected to advance? No, to me, science is about pushing the boundaries. If it wasn’t my intention to push the boundaries, I’d go and work in a bank.*

As I’ve seen it so eloquently put before:

“Scientists do not coddle ideas.

They crash test them.

They run them into a brick wall
at sixty miles per hour
and examine the pieces.

If the idea is sound,
the pieces will be those of the wall.”

* With no disrespect intended to any of my readers who may work in banks, of course!

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
This entry was posted in academia, Imported from Livejournal. Bookmark the permalink.