Creativity, divergent thinking, and psychopathology

[T]hinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box.

Source: de Manzano Ö, Cervenka S, Karabanov A, Farde L, Ullén F (2010) Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box: Thalamic Dopamine D2 Receptor Densities Are Negatively Related to Psychometric Creativity in Healthy Individuals. PLoS ONE 5(5): e10670. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010670

The birth of academic disciplines

Progress is driven by new scientific questions, which demand new ways of thinking. You want to go where a question takes you, not where your training left you. … New disciplines eventually self-organize around new problems and approaches, creating a new shared culture. This shared culture coalesces into the next essential training regimen for the next generation of scientists, and with luck, some of these people will overcome their training to open up more new fields of inquiry. —Sean R. Eddy

Source: “Antedisciplinary” Science, PLoS Computational Biology

It’s okay to be stupid, as long as your stupidity is productive

One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries. —Martin A. Schwartz

Source: “The importance of stupidity in scientific research”, Journal of Cell Science, 2008.

What constitutes the typical publication?

Few of us will ever write a classic paper … The papers that represent great leaps forward are few in number. The majority of our collective publications, and hence scientific progress, comes from incremental insights in which the context is provided by the ongoing struggle to resolve a number of outstanding questions in a field. … [T]hese experimentally solid papers are “timely, targeted, and temporary”. That is, they address unanswered issues that are on the minds of those in the field, they target specific issues amenable to experimental or theoretical resolution, and in some ways their impact is temporary, because subsequent papers using the emerging insights and new methodologies will supersede these solid papers. Yet these solid papers are the foundation for progress most of the time. —Virginia Walbot

Source: “Are we training pit bulls to review our manuscripts?”, Journal of Biology, March 9, 2009.

On the challenges of writing a dissertation

The major problem with writing a dissertation is the management of emotions. Few students have ever attempted such a large project prior to undertaking their dissertations. They will encounter ups and downs, optimism and pessimism about their progress. My best advice stems from very basic knowledge about the psychology of learning: break large tasks into small tasks and set your goal to finish the small tasks in a timely fashion. —Professor Jerry Marwell, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Source: A Dissertator’s Primer, The Writing Center at UW–Madison

Showing appreciation

[E]verything someone does for you has an opportunity cost. That means if someone takes time out of his or her day to attend to you, there’s something they haven’t done for themselves or for someone else. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking your request is small. But when someone is busy there are no small requests. They have to stop what they’re doing, focus on your request, and take the time to respond. With that in mind, there is never a time when you shouldn’t thank someone for doing something for you.

Source: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig