By Fun Man Fung, Instructor, National University of Singapore.
In your opinion, which scientific questions will set the trends in the coming decade, and which science problems would you like to tackle?
I wish scientific research to address biases, namely 1) Confirmation bias and 2) featured-positive effect. As researchers, it is imperative to be curious about a research topic and create a null hypothesis of research. However, most research publications favour positive confirmation of the hypothesis. While it is understandable that a research has to provide supporting information to evidence the hypothesis, it is imperative for seamless storied research projects to publish what did not work (DNW) also. Taking the English naturalist Charles Darwin as example, his acclaimed evolutionary theory stood for decades because in the process of proving its validity, he also gathered evidence that did not conform to his initial conjectures. In the same way, negative results in science provide a catalytic pathway towards a research path less trodden.
How do you experience diverse leadership, diversity in your lab, publication and peer-review, promotion and career progression, in your host country? What practical steps can be used to encourage inclusive, equitable research labs, departments and practices?
As a member of NUS faculty, I am very grateful that this world-class university celebrates the diverse strengths of scholars and reflects the multiracial, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic society of Singapore. Aside from the usual tenure track, NUS offers three distinct tracks of academics for career progression: Research, Educator, Practice. The educator track where I am in, are academics who are extremely passionate in teaching. Creation of these three distinct career paths, Research, Educator, Practice, enables a scholar to excel in his/her area of interest and not be unfairly and unfavourable compared to colleagues delivering excellence in the other two aspects of chemical science. Luckily, the university put in place a meritocratic system to conduct an annual review using the field weighted citation impact (FWCI) to evaluate performance more fairly. Even so, what I gather is that a number of researchers consider scientific research as competitive, and not collaborative. I believe that the academic leadership can exercise more moral courage and hire prudently to ensure synergies between researchers. This pursuit of diversely speaking, diversely thinking community of researchers can help in achieving some of the UNSDG Goals #5, #10, #16.
What is your message to the next generation of scientists, and what are your tips for their success?
This biblical quote is helpful in guiding you. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 Be supportive of your lab mates and people around you. Adapt yourself to the environment, give yourself time to fit in and discover the positive traits in everyone. Time is the best commodity you have in deliberately practicing a lab protocol that you might not enjoy, in getting over a set-back, in dealing with emotions. The boring routine training is what it takes to build mastery. It is vital not to lose track of your goals, always keep them in sight and take incremental steps to get there. Work very, very hard.