The Evolution of the 21st-Century Scientist

I was recently invited to be a guest blogger over at Macroscope, the official blog for American Scientist Magazine. Below is an excerpt from my post about the evolving role of scientists in the 21st Century. You can read the full post by clicking here.

Throughout the past year, I’ve struggled with how best to define myself as a scientist. At times, I even questioned whether it’s appropriate to refer to myself as a scientist.


The thing is, even though I have a PhD in experimental psychology and multiple scientific publications to my name, I no longer work in a traditional scientific setting. That is to say, I don’t teach or carry out my own research at a college or university, like many scientists. Indeed, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF), roughly 45 percent of PhD recipients in science work at four-year educational institutions (see figure at right).


I freely chose to leave academia about a year and a half ago because, at the time, doing so was the best thing for my family. Nonetheless, the transition was difficult, especially after so much time devoted to preparation for what I thought would be my lifelong career—four years of undergraduate education followed by five years of graduate training and another two years of postdoctoral training.


After 18 months, I’m at last fully adjusted to life on the outside. But to get to this point, I’ve had to challenge my own heavily ingrained assumptions about what it means to be a scientist. For years, I had clung to the belief, likely held by so many others, that being a scientist necessarily means being an academic and a scholar. This view is wrong—more so now than ever—because the economic landscape for scientists is changing. As such, it might well be time for the entire scientific community to rethink what it means to be a scientist.

Click here to go to the full post and continue reading.

UPDATE: As indicated here, this was the second most popular blog post of 2016 on Macroscope. It was the most popular post of any written in 2016.

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