How to be a Successful Scientist

Source: University of Waterloo website, 2005 &  Psychology Today, May 2010

1. Make new connections.

Broaden yourself to more than one field.
Read widely.
Use analogies to link things together.
Work on different projects at the same time.
Use visual as well as verbal representations.
Don’t work on what everyone else is doing.
Use multiple methods.
Seek novel mechanisms.
Find new ways of making problems soluble, e.g. by new techniques.

2. Expect the unexpected.

Take anomalies seriously.
Learn from failures.
Recover from failures.
Avoid excessive attachment to your own ideas.
Be willing to recognize and admit mistakes.

3. Be persistent.

Focus on key problems.
Be systematic and keep records.
Confirm early, disconfirm late.
Concentrate tenaciously on a subject.

4. Get excited.

Pursue projects that are fun.
Play with ideas and things.
Ask interesting questions.
Take risks.
Have a devotion for truth and a passion for reputation.
Have an inclination toward originality and a taste for research.
Have a desire for the gratification of discovery.
Have a strong desire to comprehend.
Never do anything that bores you.

5. Be sociable.

Find smart collaborators.
Organize good teams.
Study how others are successful.
Listen to people with experience.
Foster different cognitive styles.
Communicate your work to others.
Marry for psychological compatibility.
Tell close colleagues everything you know.
Communicate research results effectively.
Learn from winners.
Have people to fall back on when you get into trouble.

6. Use the world.

Find rich environments.
Build instruments.
Seek inspiration in nature.
Have good laboratory facilities and use them.
Observe and reflect intensely.
Perform experiments that rigorously test hypotheses.

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