We know famous scientists by their names and their individual achievements. Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity. Archimedes and the law of hydrostatics. Isaac Newton and the law of gravitation. Marie Curie and the discovery of radium and polonium. Alexander Fleming and the discovery of penicillin. These are just a few examples of great scientists who changed the world and whose legacy lived on, long after they’ve been gone.
But not all scientists become famous on their own right. Many of them work just as hard and yet their achievements are not any less significant. Most scientists remain unknown to the general public, but their involvement in important research means they have contributed to discoveries that leave a big impact on the world.
Nevertheless, it’s not easy to be a scientist engaged in research. To begin with, there are more positions than there are candidates, so competition is extra tough and standards are very high. As a result, job security is not a given.
Starting from the bottom
Scientists often start low – like an assistant researcher or a laboratory assistant – and climb their way up to gain experience and authority. Thus, they usually start working with a team comprised of different people with different personalities, working styles, and schedules. Although this is the case for most work settings regardless of the industry, it’s additionally critical for scientists to agree on matters as a group because it determines the direction their research will take.
Information sources used back then
Speaking of research, a big part of being a scientist involves intensive research, which is a difficult undertaking. Before the advent of the internet, scientists relied heavily on the publishing industry for knowledge advancement. They also depended on in-house collections in libraries, which meant they were limited by what they found in those libraries. They could borrow more titles from inter-library programs, but they had to wait for weeks or days before these books and papers arrived. Another option was to visit libraries in other locations, but that entailed transportation, lodging, and other related travel expenses. They needed to exert considerable time, effort, money, and other resources to move their research forward. Scientists with the bigger research grants might have been more flexible with their options, but not everyone were lucky enough.
And then came the internet
However, things have changed since the advent of the internet. Fortunately for modern scientists, they now have access to many digital tools that can help them gather data from a wide range of sources. Instead of having to travel to libraries, they can go online, log in to an app or website, then gain access to the files they need. No matter where the offline library is located, its online archives can be used anytime and anywhere, not restricted by kilometers or business hours.
Collaboration is made easier as well. Before, colleagues should be in the same place at the same time for discussions and brainstorming sessions; now, they can be in various countries and various time zones and still be able to come and work together virtually.
But perhaps, one of the best things the internet has done for scientists is giving them the freedom to reach out to fellow scientists across the globe. After all, even scientists need help sometimes. The existence of forums, user groups, and other social media platforms has enabled scientists to go beyond their team and tap into the knowledge of peers who are working on similar projects and targeting similar goals. It’s no different from college students going online to ask homework answers for science on the internet; sometimes, scientists have their own pressing inquiries that other scientists can give their insight on.
In some instances, scientists can even go beyond their peers and get data from non-scientists depending on the research they are conducting. For example, a medical researcher may want to know more about the symptoms of a certain rare disease, and one way to do that is by joining a support group of sufferers on Facebook and reading what their personal experiences have been like.
Indeed, the internet age has made it possible for scientists to get closer to the each other and the topics they’re studying. Still, a career in the science is challenging. However, if you have an inquisitive mind and a persevering nature, you may find it a good fit for you.