Book Review: Art of of Being a Scientist, Roel Snieder and Ken Larner

The Art of Being a Scientist

As I’ve mentioned before, I think that one of the hardest and most important aspects of being a faculty member is the mentoring of students who are completing research projects in my lab. I’m therefore always on the look-out for resources that can teach me new things about this realm of my job. I recently read “The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors” and it’s a bit different than most of the previous books that I’ve read on mentoring.

The thing that I really liked about this book is that it spends a lot of time thinking about science in a philosophical way and that the authors reinforce an idea that I strongly agree with: that science is a very creative enterprise and an art form. They also spend a lot of time talking about approaches to doing science and the many different ways that you can “do” science. This appreciation of diversity in performing and practicing science was refreshing and it was great to see it so clearly articulated. Chapter 7 of the book is also great as it dives into the many ways that doing science can go wrong or in unexpected directions and is called “Turning challenges into opportunities” which I thought was an excellent title. Chapter 8 is a very strong and broad treatment of the ethics of research. Later chapters of the book are more typical subjects addressed in other resources that I’ve read previously.

The book is written broadly in order to offer advice to all scientists, so as a biologist there are limitations on the advice that writers from another discipline can offer. There also could have been stronger chapters on the effects of being “other” in science (e.g. female, disabled, a visible minority, etc.) and the intersectionality of these issues. Overall this is an excellent resource and is one that I will likely purchase for my own bookshelf of resources that I refer to regularly and lend to my students.


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