Friday, January 27, 2006

To Nobel or not to Nobel...

In the comments to my previous post, my good friend Milo pointed out that I seem to be lusting for the Nobel prize. As he is no doubt well aware, my previous posts on winning a Nobel (here and here) were written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. I honestly cannot imagine ever being in the running for a Nobel. In my post on how you win a Nobel I left out one essential criterion - knowing the right people. Many (not all) Nobels are won with not just great science, but also a large amount of schmoozing... Unfortunately for any Nobel aspirations I might have, I am not much of a schmoozer. C'est la vie.

However, I am just like any other scientist in that there is some small part of me that enjoys, even craves, recognition for the work I do. Scientists are people, and just like everyone else, have egos that like to be stroked. I'm certainly no exception. It is gratifying when your work is acknowledged in a positive manner. It can even be gratifying when some well-known individual in the field, who possesses a significant god-complex*, is publically negative about something you've done (at least when you know you're right and they're wrong).** Everyone likes to be told they're doing a good job. For scientists this generally comes in the form of citations in published papers (the authors refer to your work) and sometimes in talks where the speaker points out something you've done. I'll readily admit to being delighted when hearing someone mention my work in a talk. And I'm something of a ISI Web of Knowledge junkie (this is a web site that let's you look up how many times your papers have been cited - only available to people at institutions who pay the hefty subscription fees). I like to see who is citing my work and in what context. And I honestly don't believe I'm any different from my peers in that regard. All scientists care at some level about how they are perceived.

So, do I want a Nobel? I certainly wouldn't turn one down if it were offered. But I'm also not making that a life goal. Or a goal of any sort. My only real goal with my work is to keep doing the stuff that fascinates me, and hopefully manage to keep others fascinated too.




* Someone with a god-complex thinks they are one.

** That sounded rather arrogant, but I WAS right. Really I was.

4 comments:

JollyRgr said...

Well.....I'm fascinated....I don't always understand what it is you do but it's definately fascinating :-)

Milo said...

I'm pretty sure there was a huge amount of snark in my comments about you wanting a Nobel prize in that comment below. :o)
Truth be known, you aren't snobby enough to be a Nobel laureate!

Odyssey said...

Not snobby enough... Bugger. Another strike against my Nobel aspirations...

Milo said...

Of course, the only way I'll get to Stockholm is if you invite me to your award ceremony :o)