So with the beginning of the baseball season (which I sorely miss already!) I thought I’d write about something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. That is, the idea of a five-tool scientist. In baseball a player is considered a five-tool player if they can excel at the following skills:
1) Hitting for average
2) Hitting for power
There are only a small handful of so called five-tool baseball players ever to play the game (e.g, Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays), as most players only excel at a subset of these skills. Since I am a pretty avid baseball fan, I’ve always wondered if one could define a similar type of skill subset that would define various aspects of being a professional scientist (professor?). The point being to define the broad categories of skills one should focus on so as to improve oneself as a scientist (and hopefully land a tenure-track job one day?!). So my first stab at this would be:
1) Publishing consistently
2) Publishing in high profile journals (Say top 10-15 journals in your field. A top 1-5 might be considered a 2-3 run HR, and a Cell/Nature/Science a grand slam)
3) Grant-writing (Like baserunning, this behind the scenes and oft overlooked aspect of being a scientist is often the difference between winning and losing; additionally, like stealing a base, getting a grant funded can depend on the slimmest of margins and is at the whim of a mercurial umpire)
4) Mentoring (It’s what you give to others. A well thrown, on target baseball is much easier for the receiver to handle than a wild toss in the dirt; or no toss at all).
5) Effective communication (Like fielding, everyone’s got to do this at some point in one way or another (unless you play in the American League), and some are more spectacular and flashy than others).
Well, there you have it. Perhaps you agree, disagree, or don’t give a damn? Or maybe you have five better “tools” a scientist should strive to achieve. At the very least I think simplifying various aspects of what it takes to be a scientist can help one focus on those things that will assist in being successful.