|Scientists should learn everything (source)|
Recently, I've been hearing increasing noise for scientists (or scientists-in-training) to learn X, Whatever X is. 'Scientists should learn art"; "Scientists should learn creative writing"; "Scientists should learn how to communicate to the public more clearly" ; "Scientists should learn managerial skills" and so forth.
This bothers me for a couple of reasons.
1. Why should the scientists learn all this stuff? Why aren't people clamoring for artists to learn microbiology, or for novelists to brush up on their molecular genetics?
2. What is wrong with some people being good at science and NOT being good at much else?
Yes, if waving a magic wand could suddenly make scientists good communicators, artists, and managers, I wouldn't object. But these things (like science itself) take training. And god knows, graduate students already get a lot of training.
And yes, running a lab takes managerial skills and grant writing requires clear communication and story-telling skills. But instead of requiring one person to be good at all these things, why not divide up the labor a little and have a 'lab manager' help run the lab, and a 'departmental grants guru' to help polish the grants.
It is really easy to say 'scientists should learn X' because...
1. there is a perception that scientists are smart and can learn things easily
2. it is always impossible to argue that things wouldn't be better if scientists were good at X. (Wouldn't it be great if all scientists were excellent public speakers? yes of course.)
The problem is implementing the extensive training in X that a scientist should have, and what current training to replace. Therefore I propose that the 'scientists should learn X' statements should all be adjusted to say 'scientists should get extensive training in X rather than Y'.