Scientist of the 21st century

Scientist of the 21st century

A mellow and half-bald person sitting under a tree, contemplating in order to explain a phenomenon of nature is no longer the depiction of science these days. In fact, science has become something known to be truly portrayed by high-throughput computing, innumerable state of the art equipments engineered to consistently generate surfeits of data that are enough to glut the data storage devices, working 24/7 with highest possible efficiency. Science is now seen to be somewhere between silicon chips and genome sequence data of various organisms, as complex as human beings themselves. An example taken into account can make it more lucid; one of the next generation sequencing technologies known as SOLID (Sequencing by Oligonucleotide Ligation Detection), generally used to sequence whole genomes of organisms, is capable of generating data up to 50 GB per run in a duration of 14 days. It is salient here to keep in mind that the whole genome of a human being is around 3.3 GB. In this case, with such volumes of data, science for a molecular biologist or a geneticist is not only confined to life sciences rather one requires having an extended amount of knowledge about computer science, engineering and statistics.

Speed, increased communication facilities and versatility are the touchstone for comparing scientists of this age with the ones of a generation earlier. Science with the advent of data-intensive research entails higher and stronger collaborations, both of national and international levels. All the collaborations aimed at exchanging unprecedented ideas and generating funds for research require a higher level of communication, involving media and public interaction. Thus requiring a scientist to be an all-rounder not only in terms of technical or professional expertise but also in social terms, not looking for chances to evade situations where one has to face public, but be a competitive public speaker. The need of the hour are scientists having abilities to step out of their labs without being daunted, and explain to the general public about the magic they spell in their labs.

With the increase in data produced by scientific experiments and consequently the advance in engineering sciences to cope up, the job of scientists these days requires least practical work as robots and computers have taken place making it slightly revelling for the scientists themselves. Not facing the arduous day long procedures of setting up experiments and fear experimental failure, all that a scientist has to do is plan his/her work and interpret the data generated. But with all these facilities and the possibility of managing huge volumes of data in a diminutive amount of time, the cost of experimental science has also increased. As in the above mentioned example of SOLID, only machine cost is around 600,000 US$ which is way higher than the costs of experiments conducted a few decades earlier.

Science earlier was a reticent practice involving work in isolation and least interaction with peers. On the contrary, now, volubility of a scientist determines how successful he/she will be. Science has now also become a means of cultural exchange as scientists travelling frequently get to know about the traditions and living patterns of their fellow scientists working across borders. This also requires scientists to be flexible with their daily practices and beliefs and not to bear a doctrinaire attitude. It also entails the will of being aware of the latest scientific research through electronic media being carried out across the globe in order to meet the current requirements and produce research work up to the mark.

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