A Crisis of identity: Am I a scientist?

When meeting people for the first time, friends of friends, and that kind of thing, one of the questions most people ask, including myself is: and what do you do?

Err.

Shit.

This very question has precipitated in me a sense of dread of late.

I’m no longer a working scientist. So, can I still call myself a scientist? I’ve yet to be published anywhere in print (it will happen I tell you!). Soooo, what am I? Can I call myself a science writer yet? I’m not sure. Do I have to be paid to do something before I can be called that? Where’s the rule book?

I don’t know. I’m currently lurking in some kind of imposter zone. Neither quite one thing or the other. On paper.

I’m not willing to give up the mantel of “being a scientist”. Which is why it was reassuring to speak to Jan Zalasiewicz, who paused briefly when I mentioned this, and kindly suggested that being a scientist is just a way of looking at the world, and so, is perfectly acceptable for me to continue calling myself this. I tend to agree, but would someone else?

I feel more comfortable, if a succinct answer is needed, to say I’m a scientist. However, most people will follow this up with a “what kind of science?”, “What do you work on?”, etc. So, I might say I’m a science writer, but currently this leads to an awkward explanation of what I’ve done and how I’ve only “officially” been trying to be a freelance science writer/communicator for just over a week.

Also, I really don’t want to give off the “struggeling, dusty, unemployed writer” stereotype thing … but that may just be odd paranoia in my case. It’s perfectly normal to not shower for days and keep food in your beard right … right?

Still, people, even relative strangers, are still alarmingly supportive of it. Maybe they’re just being nice.

Anyway, these are just my idle worries and concerns. A fairly trivial point I guess, but I don’t want to give people the wrong impression of me. Maybe I’ll “get used” to being what ever I am now soon, and have an idea what I am…

On a different topic, I happened to be speaking to Jan Zalasiewicz as I help to run the www.oxfordscibar.com. (have a look here for more about what that is).

Both Jan and his colleague Mark Williams recently co-authored a book called “The Goldilocks Planet”  which is a pretty good read, and that’s what their talk was about. The four billion year history of earth’s climate, and what can it tell us about the future. Some good and surprising facts in there.

If you want to have listen, you can grab the talk from the SciBar website here, as well as some older ones. Here’s the direct download link: The Goldilocks Planet: The four billion year story of earth’s climate

I tried something a little different this time with the introduction, with a brief teaser synopsis, so see what you think. I also stumble awkwardly over Jans surname… balls.

As is my want, I got both Jan and Mark to sign my copy, ‘cus having signed popular science books just rocks. With a grin, Mark Williams said to me: “I’ve never really done this before, so I’m not too sure what to write”. Anyway, he left me with this, which I liked. It’s the smiley that does it.

It’s the smiley that makes it.


4 responses to “A Crisis of identity: Am I a scientist?

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