Recently, I read the above quote by Moby. He was referring to the rising cost of living in New York City and how it hampers the city’s creative class, but I immediately thought how well it applies to science, too.
I spent my Tuesday this week facing multiple failure modes: my computer decided not to work, my reagent didn’t turn out right… again (although this time it turned orange instead of cloudy… for some reason), and I got frustrated trying to find some details I needed to write a sampling grant. I forgot the word “soils” in my meeting with my advisor. It was an “I need chocolate” sort of day.
And it doesn’t just apply to “bad days” in science, where you need to remember that you are flexible and do, in fact, quite enjoy what you do despite a solid day of setbacks and roadblocks. It also applies to that project idea that you had a year ago and didn’t quite turn out how you expected. It applies to ideas that you tell your advisor and they respond with “…probably not.”
One of my labmates compared to science to art; she said that scientists are just creative in different ways – we use different approaches and different materials than artists, but our goals aren’t that different. We want to look at the world through new perspectives and spark people’s imaginations, to share our enthusiasm with others and to help them understand what we get excited about, what we care about. Our jobs are to explore.
Science requires the freedom to fail.