Theme of the seminar
The seminar comprises two presentations. The first one is based on a recently published book (Cs. Szántay, Jr, (Ed), Anthropic Awareness: the human aspects of scientific thinking in NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. New York: Elsevier, 2015.) and takes a candid look at science from an unusual perspective, attempting to offer some insights into how psychological factors secretly infiltrate its fabric.
The common notion that science is the world of objective rationality based on methodological rigor, stringent logic, irrefutable experimental proofs, and unbiased peer reviewing and testing, is an idealistic myth which all too often dissents from what “scientific truth” is in reality, and from how scientists truly „function” in practice.
Actually, our scientific thinking is influenced by deep-rooted human (“anthropic”) factors of which we are not normally aware of. Some of these lead to what we call Mental Traps which are the hidden sources of mistaken or misleading inferences, a phenomenon we refer to as the illusion of understanding, and mass misconceptions about apparently well-established “scientific truths”. By their very nature, Mental Traps affect even the smartest, most knowledge able, and most attentive scientists. However, by understanding the essence of the Traps one can develop the enlightening faculty of detecting and avoiding them both in one’s own and in others’ thoughts. It is this mental aptitude/attitude of being keenly conscious about our human nature during scientific thinking which is captured in the phrase ”anthropic awareness” in the title of the aforementioned book.
The seminar will address the concept of ”anthropic awareness” as a kind of philosophy, will outline a simple metaphoric model of human thinking that clarifies the reasons behind the Mental Traps, and will discuss some of the Traps. Real-life case-studies involving Mental Traps in both the theory of NMR and in structure determination by NMR and MS will be mentioned in some detail. Although some prior knowledge about NMR (and perhaps MS) is an advantage, it is not necessary for the understanding of the presentation.
In fact, the case studies will serve more or less as a pretext for demonstrating that ”anthropic awareness” has a general relevance throughout all of natural sciences, and is useful not only in our everyday professional lives as researchers, but also in our non-professional everyday lives.
The second presentation addresses the following questions:
- Do renowned researchers owe their success to the fact that they are simply more “talented” than others, or are there some other “secret” involved?
- What exactly is the nature of their special “talent”?
- Can that “talent” be learned?
- Are you, as a potential researcher, struggling with the question whether you are “talented” enough to build a successful and fulfilling career in research?
- What kinds of competencies are required in that regard from a researcher by the various research institutions or industrial research sites?
- Should you choose the industry or academia for your research career?
- Does the university provide you with the right kind and right amount of knowledge so that you can “make it” in the “real world”?
- If not, in what ways should you improve yourself? What is (or should be) the true merit of a PhD degree (besides its ego-boosting effect that you can put “Dr.” in front of your name) when you start your work in the world, especially in the industry?
- Do the universities fully realize what skills should be mostly developed during a PhD program?
- Do the research facilities fully realize what they can or should expect from such PhD programs?
- What skills are needed to be demonstrated in a job interview?
Although these questions, and many related ones, are of utmost importance at an individual as well as an institutional level, they are typically not addressed with sufficient conscientiousness, and are poorly understood by all involved parties, i.e. students, supervisors, research institutes and industrial R&D facilities, etc. Furthermore, the topic is surrounded by many misguided stereotypes and myths, especially about what it means to be “talented” as a researcher, which can have rather negative practical consequences.
In this admittedly somewhat off-the-wall, and perhaps even provocative, presentation I will attempt to discuss these issues on the basis of having gained quite a lot of experience as a researcher as well as a manager of a research unit in both a heavy-duty pharmaceutical industrial research environment, and also in a university setting. Based on this experience, I will argue that while technical expertise and a sufficient degree of “smartness” are of course important qualities, the “talent” that really matters in the long run are dominated by skills that will be referred to as “attitude competencies”. I will mention a number of such skills, including the attitude-driven ability to avoid the “mental traps” discussed in the first presentation. In all, the messages to be conveyed will probably be surprising, but hopefully also inspiring with a positive outlook on the “secret” of being a “good researcher”.
Although the second presentation builds to some extent on the first one, it is self-contained to the extent that it is accessible in its own right.
- A seminar will shedlighton the nature and cause of the Mental Traps that weliveby, and helps to identify and avoid them…
- A seminar will help students to develop a more conscientious, more critical, more meticulous, and more daring scientific (and “everyday”) thinking.
- The seminar intends to work as a personal development program, in which the students receive a new perspective on what it takes to become successful as a researcher.
- The students will gain an understanding of the skills that affect a person’s performance beyond technical knowledge and intellectual capabilities.
- They will gain an insight into life into the pharma industry.
- They will get some hints as to what competencies matter most in job interviews.
Előadó / Lecturer
Prof. Dr. Szántay, Csaba
private professor at BME
Gedeon Richter Plc.