Research Inspiration: Books and Quotes for Scientists

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Being a researcher or academic isn’t easy. It’s a long complex journey with lots of ups and downs. Sometimes, you feel lost and tired. That’s when you need some inspiration to keep going.

I’ve gathered quotes from must-read books written by inspiring researchers and scholars to help you stay motivated. Hopefully, these quotes give you a little sparks of encouragement. They cover everything from personal growth to handling tough situations at personal and, of course, professional life.

Breaking Through by Katalin Karikó

A person isn’t a better scientist because she publishes more, or first. Perhaps she’s holding back from publication because she wants to be absolutely certain of her data. The number of citations might have little to do with the value of the paper and more to do with external events.

Katalin Karikó, Breaking Through: My Life In Science

That’s the thing about basic research: When you’re learning everything you can, you can’t predict where it goes.

Katalin Karikó, Breaking Through: My Life In Science

Money mattered in academic research, too. But there’s so many people pretended it didn’t. They papered over the influence of money with symbols of prestige: publication records, citations, committees, fellowships, alma maters, “influence.”

Katalin Karikó, Breaking Through: My Life In Science

Sometimes today people ask me what it takes for a woman to be a mother and a successful scientists. The answer is simple, obvious: One need high-quality and affordable childcare. [..] Unfortunately, when great childcare isn’t available or affordable, it is usually the mother who sacrifices herself. Sure, you can find families where both parents work high-level jobs. But there’s a catch: That family, the one with two working parents, must already have money. If they don’t have some existing source of wealth? No. You won’t find it. It doesn’t work. An affordable system of quality childcare is an investment for a nation, and it is one, I think, that comes back a millionfold.

Katalin Karikó, Breaking Through: My Life In Science

Read the review and summary here.

The Data Detective by Tim Harford

When it comes to interpreting the world around us, we need to realize that our feelings can trump our expertise.

Tim Harford, The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics

Our emotions are powerful. We can’t make them vanish, nor should we want to. But we can, and should, try to notice when they are clouding our judgment.

Tim Harford, The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics

We often find ways to dismiss evidence that we don’t like. And the opposite is true, too: when evidence seems to support our preconceptions, we are less likely to look too closely or flaws. The more extreme the emotional reaction, the harder it is to think straight.

Tim Harford, The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics

Read the review and summary here.

Calling Bullshit by Jevin D West and Carl T Bergstrom

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it.

Jonathan Swift

Read the review and summary here.

Hidden Potential by Adam Grant

It’s often said that those who can’t do, teach. It would be more accurate to say that those who can do, can’t teach the basics.

Adam Grant, Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things

Instead of helping you find your way, directions from expert guides can leave you stuck. Even worse, they can leave you feeling like your own limitations are preventing you from progressing.

Adam Grant, Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things

Read the review and summary here.

Range by David Epstein

Everyone is so busy doing research they don’t have time to stop and think about the way they’re doing it.

David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Read the review and summary here.

Science Fiction by Stuart Ritchie

Every time scientists hype or misrepresent one of their results, they risk making a dent in our collective trust in science. When the hype reaches fever pitch, they risk corrupting the credibility of entire fields of research.

Stuart Ritchie, Science Fiction: How Fraud, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth

If you find an effect in an underpowered study, that effect is probably exaggerated.

Stuart Ritchie, Science Fiction: How Fraud, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth

Read the review and summary here.

Why We Die by Venki Ramakrishnan

Like some of the more mainstream molecular biologists, I severely underestimated the importance of their work, and I regret that I didn’t talk to them about their discoveries when I had the chance. It’s a reminder to me of how insular most scientists are, with little appreciation of what goes on outside their narrow specialties.

Venki Ramakrishnan, Why We Die: The New Science of Ageing and the Quest for Immortality

Read the review and summary here.

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