Quotes on Impostor Syndrome in Science

A little while back I came across this post in Context and Variation, the great blog of Kate Clancy at University of Illinois. The entirety of the article, Impostors, the Culture of Science, and Fulfilling Our Potential, is worth a read, but I wanted to share a few quotes that stuck out to me. First, the following, which perfectly encapsulates the excitement of someone who’s found their research calling, even if it’s not a topic that garners millions of research dollars:

Here’s the thing: I think my research kind of rocks. Let me try and state this again without the typical, gendered equivocating: my research rocks. I don’t think it’s the kind of research that Nature or Science will ever value […], I don’t think Natalie Angier will ever knock down my door to interview me among a legion of my grad students and postdocs in a fancy, center-funded laboratory. But I think that the questions I ask, the way I frame my research, and the evidence I have gathered is going to have a lasting, meaningful impact on my field and, I hope, on clinical women’s health research. I have a perspective that could radicalize our understanding of human reproductive ecology, and project ideas and upcoming pilots that will test whether this is the case.

And second, some great advice found in the summary points of a conference session she co-chaired on impostor syndrome and the culture of science:

  • The culture of science often privileges perceived legitimacy from attitude and pedigree over actual ability. This is counter to the ideal culture of science I mention above, and makes it difficult for scientists to become interdisciplinary.
  • We should be more open about ignorance, uncertainty, and knowing what we know versus what we don’t know. Again, this is appreciated in many places across science even while directly opposing behaviors are rewarded.
  • We need to differentiate between authority and expertise. Some worried that the democratization of science actually empowers people who speak with more authority rather than those who are best at their science.

Six Most Isolated Groups

Cracked articles are often an edifying way to waste time, and I really enjoyed 6 Isolated Groups Who Had No Idea That Civilization Existed. Here’s a photo from Survival International on the Sentinelese:

“The Sentinelese tribe make their home on North Sentinel Island, India. They’re named after the island they live on, because nobody actually knows what they call themselves. In fact, generally speaking, nobody knows much of anything about them. After they survived the 2004 tsunami that swept right over their island (another thing we don’t know: how the hell they managed to do that), we sent a few helicopters over the island to photograph them and make sure they were still around.”