10 ways to insult a scientist

Although the scientific world is relatively civilized, people developed subtle ways of insulting each other without really saying it. Here is my top 10.


1- Does mainly applied research. The rivalry, despise, and even haste between “fundamental” and “applied” researchers is just as legendary then the one between New York and New Jersey, France and England, Mac and PC’s. Somebody coming from the “fundamental” side will use the sentence “does mainly applied research” if they want to say “Basically, does no research at all“. Baaam.

2- Is a good teacher. Can be the correlate of ” … but, is bad at science”.

3- Has been tenured since a long time. Sounds positive at first, but actually means this person has been like a mussel on the rock. Inactive, boring, and aggregating foam on the back. Motivation to do novel and innovative research is close to zero.

4- Publishes in specialized journals. Sneaky one. Although publishing sounds like a good thing, the “specialized” part of this sentence actually means low-impact, low-interest or low-quality.

5- Is often gone on conference. Generally said of big wigs. Actually means they spend all their time attending meetings and doing PR, rather then taking care of their lab and research.

6- Research is mainly based on correlations/descriptions. That’s an other way of saying that the research lacks depth, or mechanistic details. Ouch.

7- Is good at bench work. Implies that this person is basically a technician, and is not interested/capable of sitting down to read, write, or think. You never want to hear this about yourself.

8- Is present during work hours. Again, seems like a nice comment at first, but this is actually a hidden way of saying “is present only during work hours”. Means this person is never in the lab late or during week-ends. Possibly implies low motivation level, or low output.

9- Is a nice person. Hum, like in other relationships, the adjective “nice” is generally used when nothing else is applicable. Smart, pretty, funny, etc … In science, the “nice person” is the one people like to hang out during lab outings; and chat with, but not about science. So it basically means not-very-good-at-science-but-nice-person, again.

10- Is too busy to attend seminars. Missing a seminar here and there, because a crucial experiment is going on is understandable. But some people might always claim being too busy. This means, uninterested in anything else then there own little subfield, and lazy to walk up a few floors to the seminar room.


So, do you recognize some of these ? Isn’t science a cruel world to live in, after all ?


2 thoughts on “10 ways to insult a scientist

  1. Very insightful and given me inspiration for my next report write up! I’m fairly new to the science world and will now analysis my feedback from teachers more carefully.
    I loved this blog! It reminded me of the feedback given in a work appraisal.

    “Fred Is very confident within role and maintains focus on task in hand” = not a team player and doesn’t spend all day engaging in chit chat with other employees. AKA = a loner

  2. Yes, very recognizable… Interesting how people can say something that sounds positive at first but really isn’t on second thought. Let’s hope that most people learn to recognize these kind of statements for what they are early in their careers – and that people would stop doing this!

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