by PhilipJ on 18 October 2007
James Watson has written another memoir, this time entitled Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science, which this Times article says “contains an inflammatory epilogue with eye-popping theories that will, undoubtedly, leave ethicists choking with disbelief”. I’m less excited about his thoughts on the intelligence of people from Africa or how to get a date, and more excited by his insight into how to be a successful scientist. That being said, the article does contain a lot on Watson’s day to day life, and I enjoyed reading all of it.
This section outlines something we all know, but don’t necessarily emphasize enough:
For Watson, the ability to socialise is a key skill, one he believes can help propel you far beyond your peers. “Gossip is a fact of life also among scientists. And if you are out of the loop of what’s new, you are working with one hand tied behind your back.”
Socialising is certainly an important aspect of any successful career in science (and out, for that matter), but it isn’t always easy to do at huge meetings like the March Meeting of the APS, where there are literally thousands of people in attendance. The smaller conferences I’ve attended (with 50-100 people) have been a great way to meet others, in my own field and out. Part of it is the (usually) more relaxed atmosphere, where it doesn’t matter if sessions run a little late, and everyone isn’t as rushed, often leading to longer time for questions after talks, which I’ve found are the best way to start talking to someone—everyone likes it when you’re interested in their science! On the opposite side, the audience is necessarily quite a bit smaller. Does anyone have any advice on how to make the most out of your conference trips, particularly the large national conferences where almost everyone (boring and interesting alike) can be found?
Update — for another take on the book itself, see this week’s Nature review by Huntington F. Willard, here (subscription required).