Scientific Research as a Career: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Scientific Research as a Career

1st Edition

By Finlay MacRitchie

CRC Press

131 pages

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Describing the philosophy of the scientific method and the training and professional characteristics needed for a successful career, Scientific Research as a Career is a comprehensive "how-to" guide for the aspiring scientist. Based on the author’s experience both as a scientist in a research organization and as a university mentor, the book covers:

  • The interaction between management and leadership principles and scientific research
  • Qualifications and attributes usually required to become a successful researcher
  • History, application, and prerequisites of the scientific method and scientific progress
  • Exploration of the careers of pivotal and influential scientists

The author highlights the importance of networking and the value of forming contacts with colleagues, joining scientific associations, attending conferences, making presentations, and acting as chairs for conference sessions. He also touches on the many areas outside of "the science" that readers are likely to encounter during their career, such as mentoring, supervising research students, and managing a group. The book clearly delineates not only the challenges currently facing scientists, but also how to overcome them and achieve success in their careers.


MacRitchie shows how much struggle and effort is necessary to carry out a scientific career, including the necessary of dedication in studies and work, the difficulty in finding food ideas for research projects, the care in supervision of students, but above all the importance of dealing with people. This is an important aspect that demands considerable self-preparation and is not very often addressed in the education of Ph.D. students, since it requires experience rather than explanations. The author’s personal experiences are given as examples of how a scientific career requires stamina, determination, and also wisdom. In this sense, the book is provocative. It is definitively worth reading by both those intending to get information on how to proceed into a scientific path and established scientists who consider that their work is a bit more than just getting good publications.

—Roberto G. S. Berlinck, Univerisdade de São Paulo, Brazil, in Journal of Natural Products, 2012

This book provides an interesting, unique approach to research careers in the sciences. MacRitchie (emer.. Kansas State Univ.) does not just describe preparing for and attaining jobs but also includes provocative descriptions and opinions about hindrances to careers, especially the effects of research management. He discusses the motivation and breadth of knowledge needed and the value of critical thinking. The author also addresses the differences in graduate training in the sciences, the scientific method, science versus nonscience, dead-end hypotheses, and required attributes of scientists. … MacRitchie provides career advice in a Dilbert-like style, and the chapters on management and leadership abound with horror/war stories of bad research management. Describing the pitfalls as well as the glories of scientific research is admirable, and anyone contemplating a scientific research career will benefit from reading this work. It is also useful for those influencing management and public policy in the sciences. Summing Up: Recommended.

— CHOICE Magazine, APril 2012

"This will be a very important resource for beginning scientists especially so that they can see what the field is like, especially this all important topic of how to build prestige and a track record for excellence."

—John D 'Angelo, Alfred University, New York

Table of Contents




Motivation and Requisites for a Research Career

Early Interest and a Simple Research Problem

Importance of Combining Study with Experimentation


Scientific Training and Personal Development

University Qualifications

Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral Degrees

Research Ph.D. versus Combined Research and Course Work

Imaginative and Regimented Thinking

The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination

Research versus Collecting Data

Oral and Written Examinations

Limitations of Statistics

Accuracy: Are the Results What Are Intended to Be Measured?

Where to after Graduation?

Main Areas for Employment of Science Graduates

Internships as a Precursor to Employment

Networking, Joining Associations, Conference Presentations


The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method, Empiricism, Induction

Karl Popper: Analysis of Early 20th Century Theories

Demarcation: A Criterion to Distinguish between Scienceand Nonscience

Myths as Precursors of Scientific Hypotheses

Exploratory Work Preceding Hypotheses

Growth of Scientific Knowledge

Dangers to Growth: Lack of Motivation for Inquiry, Misplaced Faith in Precision, Authoritarianism

How Scientific Research Can Be Put Off Track Deliberately

How Scientific Research Can Be Put Off Track Unintentionally


Attributes Required by Research Scientists

Citations as a Criterion for Research Value

Conceptual Thought Required to Form Hypotheses



Ethical Standards—Plagiarism


Service: Peer Reviewing

Service: Serving on Awards Committees



The Impact of Managerialism

The Managerial Ideology

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research

Organization (CSIRO) of Australia

Reviews of CSIRO

Effects of McKinsey Review

Freedom of Expression in Science

A False Premise

Performance Criteria for Scientists

Influence of Managerialism on Scientists

The Risks of Corrupt Practices

Coping with Effects of Managerial Stress


Leadership in Science


Supervision of Research Students

Qualities Needed to Lead Scientific Research

Servant Leadership

The Inverted Pyramid

The Future


Insights from Notable Scientists

Marie Curie (1867–1934)

Charles Darwin (1809–1882)

Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Rosalind Franklin (1920–1958)

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910–1994)

Irving Langmuir (1881–1957)

Lise Meitner (1878–1968)

Gregor Mendel (1822–1884)

Louis Pasteur (1822–1895)

Nikola Tesla (1856–1943)


Future Challenges for Scientific Research

Two Areas for Change in Direction

Why Are Humans the Only Species to Have Progressed Culturally?

Why Present Funding Procedures for Research Are Unsatisfactory

Stifling of Creativity in Science Can Stunt Future Economic Growth

Suppression of Freedom Causes Stagnation of Knowledge

The Need for a Change in the Working Environment for Research



About the Originator


Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / General
MEDICAL / Public Health
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Physics