Thursday, November 27, 2008

What scientists should be thankful for ...

Well, it is Thanksgiving. I am up late as usual catching up on email. On this day, there is something I have been meaning to post for a few years. I think scientists should take a breath today and give thanks to those who have helped them along the way. I have some specific postings about this in terms of who I want to thanks, but I wanted to make a list here of the types of things scientists should be thankful for. So here goes.

10 things scientists should be thankful for
  1. Teachers. Scientists had to learn science at some point. And most of us have had some stellar science teachers, or teachers of science-related things like math, along the way. We should give thanks to these people.
  2. Inspirers. Similar to #1 except in many cases we have been inspired to become scientists by someone who may not have been a teacher of ours. Perhaps it was a famous scientist, or even a fictional one. Or even someone we knew. It is that inspiration that frequently gets one through the tough times.
  3. Benefactors In general, scientists have a pretty nice life. We get paid (sometimes well, sometimes poorly) and are given research funds, to unlock the secrets of the universe. How cool is that? We should therefore be very thankful for the immediate source of our funds - such as the institutes where we work and the agencies that provide us funds.
  4. Taxpayers. Unless one is funded by private foundations, taxpayers are the ultimate source of those funds mentioned in #3. This source of funds is frequently overlooked but should never be forgotten. Don't forget - we take money people from people that in theory they could have gotten to keep if their taxes were lower. We should thank these taxpayers..
  5. Research personnel (including student researchers, post docs, technicians, etc). Most of the time, scientists get credit for some work that was in a large part actually done by people in our labs. They deserve our eternal gratitude.
  6. Students we teach. Overall, for those scientists who teach, though it may be a required part of our jobs, it is also a great way to learn and to become a better scientist.
  7. Staff at publishers. An important part of communicating science is of course publishing. And though I am a big fan of new ways to disseminate information, let us not forget that there are many many people who aid and abet this dissemination by working for publishers. These folks deserve our thanks.
  8. Study subjects or objects. Whether one studies organisms, rocks, molecules, planets, forces, or whatever, we should all be thankful that there is interesting stuff out there to study. And for those who study living things, if one disturbs them along the way, we should
  9. Librarians and library staff. Access to information is critical for both learning to become a scientist and being a scientist. And libraries play a key role in providing this access.
  10. Family and friends. Late nights at the lab? Working on a grant over the weekend? Writing papers all the time? In school for years and years? All of this takes a toll on friends and family. And we owe them some props.
I am sure there are more categories. But these are some that came to me on this Thanksgiving. Any categories I missed?


  1. well put, jonathan. happy thanksgiving to all!

  2. Nice post, Jonathan. Have a great thanksgiving.

  3. Is that not the point of thanksgiving, punk

  4. totally agree with you.And before all comes the Creator that created a so wonderful Universe and gave us the privelege to become scientists!

  5. thanks for posting this, I agree with all of these

  6. This is great. I have one more

    I am grateful to be able to contribute to helping others (e.g. often results of our discoveries are direclty beneficial to other scientists in their research and in some cases, we can even help feed those in need).

    Not many people have a profession that provides such opporunities.