Criticism is essential to science. Criticism is the vehicle by which science moves forward. We investigate, present our findings, and subject these findings to peer review – to criticism. If such findings are convincing to a qualified panel of our peers, we are granted permission to share these findings with a broader audience – to publish. Even after publication, our findings may be scrutinized, repeated by independent groups, invalidated, and retracted if necessary. This is all part of a healthy cycle in our universal effort towards uncovering truth.
But scientists are only human. We can be emotional. We can be sensitive. We love our work. We are prone towards protecting our work like children. When someone criticizes our work, we can take it personally. We should be objective in our judgement of criticism and learn from our critics. As we should be objective in our critiques. But that doesn’t always happen.
Whether in tweets, blogs, or publications, words can get thrown. Scientifically valid but often colored with not the most politically correct nor the most properly toned words. Potentially career destroying words.
People in the scientific community are scared. Maybe they’ll be next. But perhaps that’s good. If you don’t want to be targeted, then don’t produce bad work. But why should we be scared in the first place? I don’t want to be scared. I want to share my work and discuss it critically with my peers. I want my work to be criticized so it can improve. So I can improve.
And frankly, I’m not sure if I would be too susceptible if someone criticized me with an attacking and sardonic tone. Nor would I expect someone else to accept my criticisms gracefully if I delivered them so harshly. Critiques are not the place to create entertainment and drama.
So speak with care. Judge with prudence. We are all scientists here. Please criticize me like one. And we can move science forward together.