1st Edition

The Whys of a Scientific Life

By John R. Helliwell Copyright 2019
    120 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    120 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    The first in the Focus Series on Global Science Education, The Whys of a Scientific Life examines why scientists do what they do. Working from a diverse background in scientific research, including academic departments of physics and chemistry, as well as the scientific civil service, the author describes the choices scientists make. Fundamentally, a scientist asks questions based on curiosity. In addition, the environment is very important. By influencing their elected governments, society itself shapes the scientific research that is undertaken by scientists. This book follows on naturally from the author’s last book, Skills for a Scientific Life, which is a how-to guide for scientists and those that aspire to engage in science as a career.

    Key Features:

  • User friendly and concise, this text dissects the whys of science and discovery
  • The author has outstanding experience in mentoring science students and staff, and also in outreach activities for the public and students of all ages including schools
  • The final chapter emphasises the joys of the scientist in research
    1. Introduction to ‘Because’
    2. Part I: Fundamental science

    3. Because we ask a question
    4. Because we make a hypothesis
    5. Because we wish to make a collection
    6. Because of ‘What happens if?’
    7. Because one thing leads to another
    8. Because we get criticized
    9. Because we referee other scientists
    10. Because something unexpected happens
    11. Because sometimes we have to interrupt a line of research investigation
    12. Because we want to tackle adventurous research
    13. Part II: The role of technology

    14. Because of technology push
    15. Part III: The wider research and work environment

    16. Because we wish to engage in a grand challenge or mission led research objective
    17. Part IV: The scientist’s inner self

    18. Because we wish to develop our skills for a better future
    19. Because we wish to reach to an end point
    20. Because we like finding things out ‘at the science bench’
    21. Part V: Communication of science

    22. Why do scientists confer so much?
    23. Why do scientists submit their research to a journal?
    24. Part VI: Science and society

    25. Because we can expand the scope of research with ‘Open Science’ bringing an improved future for Society
    26. Because a new or improved product is needed via industrial research
    27. Importance of the ‘Whys of a scientific life’ for society
    28. Part VII Fundamentals revisited

    29. Why is science objective?
    30. Because of data and peer review.

    31. Why is Science a joy to do?


    John R. Helliwell is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester. He was awarded a DSc degree in physics from the University of York in 1996. He was Director of Synchrotron Radiation Science at the Council for the Central Laboratories of the Research Councils (CCLRC). He has served as President of the European Crystallographic Association (ECA). He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Biology, and the American Crystallographic Association. In 1997, he was made an Honorary Member of the National Institute of Chemistry, Slovenia. He was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona, Spain, in 2015. He was made an Honorary Member of the British Biophysical Society in 2017. He was the Kathleen Lonsdale Lecturer of the British Crystallographic Association in 2011, the Patterson Prize Awardee of the American Crystallographic Association in 2014, and the Max Perutz Prize Awardee of the European Crystallographic Association in 2015. He is the International Union of Crystallography Representative at the International Council for Science Committee on Data. He has published more than 200 research publications and two research monographs.

    Thus, to readers who are passionate about their research, this book provides a very appropriate perspective and a systematic approach to many relevant questions, directly related to the conscious choice of pursuing a scientific life. It was a pleasure to read and provides clear answers to many a `Why' associated with scientific research across disciplines.

    The author in my view provides a well thought-through `rough guide' to be considered by many a scientist. It should be shared with colleagues, students, and even people in the street, general society, management entities, and decision makers of higher academic institutions and in government: specifically, with those who so often query with variable modes and emphasis `Why is scientific research (really) necessary?'

    - Andreas Roodt, Journal of Applied Crystallography, 52, 2019

    This is an enjoyable book that provides a unique perspective of a mentor in the field of academic science. The author's passion for science is evident throughout.

    -Chery Thompson, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

    Many of the issues are illustrated and, in turn illuminated, by way of well-chosen case examples often involving the good and great (Darwin, Einstein, Fleming, Watson and Crick) and also including many from John Helliwell’s own research; this is a highly commendable feature of the book.

    - Paul Barnes (2019): The Whys of a Scientific Life, Crystallography Reviews, DOI:10.1080/0889311X.2019.1624315