This post has two purposes, first, celebrate that I was awarded a RyC fellowship to go back to Spain, which is very exciting. Second to recommend to everyone the reading of Ramón y Cajal advice for a young researcher [PDF here].
It was written in 1920’s and is surprisingly modern. He makes a strong argument to let the data talk for your science and he make some very relevant points against the inclusion of honorary authors. I also love his steps to write a paper:
(1) Have something to say, (2) say it, (3) stop once it is said, and (4) give the article a suitable title and order of presentation.
He is a little bit too harsh on substituting talent by working hard, but I agree that working hard (i.e. don’t expect discoveries to come easy) is a good advice. Putting that together with his advice on how to criticise others work without hurting any feeling (i.e, always acknowledging the good points first), I can summarise it with a quote borrowed from my father: “work hard and be nice to people”. On my own experience, I recommend anyone to maximize the feeling that Science is a big community of helpful people with a common purpose rather than a competition among researchers.
The advice for the Spaniards (how to do science from a country on the cue of scientific production and with very limited funding in 1920) is not as up-to-date nowadays, but I am affraid we will have to apply some of his advide on that soon, if things keep that way.
I don’t agree with everything. For example, I think working in group and establish collaborations is basic to get the most of our imagination and talent, instead of working alone for long hours. I also think is funny the advise he gives in order to find an appropriate wife, and it may look even a bit offensive nowadays, although the bottom line is quite true: find someone who understands you!
The last thing I want to highlight is that i love how he transmit the ideal of a scientist as a nobel pursuser of the truth, unbiased, humble, honorable, almost kind of a knight extracted from a tale. But I’ll let you read the rest. Enjoy.