John. All great advice for young scientists from my perspective. A well thought out and nicely written piece. I can amplify in particular your (#8) observation. The criticism of original works by authors who have clearly not read or understood said works is a source of great frustration for me. Conversely many scientists accept these often cited works as gospel and formulate entire research programs based on them. They rarely question the basic assumptions at the heart of the foundational work they seek to expand on. The default position is typically, if it’s good enough for my textbook it must be right.

I can demonstrate this point with the all too common experience of trying to replicate the results of peer reviewed published studies. In my own career I have been able to achieve replication in at best 10% of the published works I have set out to repeat exactly as published. The pedigree of the particular journal or institution at which the original work was performed seems irrelevant in my own experience.

Of course it is folly to question the basic assumptions at the heart of every scientific discipline. Progress could never happen if scientists never accepted the validity of historical data. My point is only that, especially today, when studies in a given field are published with ever increasing volume, it is even more important to view all of them skeptically. Without a thorough and clear understanding of these works any future studies that takes them as a given will lead only to further confusion.

To the young scientist I say simply this. Read each of the studies you cite in the references of your publications. Then read at least two or three other papers that cite them in their references. When possible take the time to try and repeat them in your own lab. Yes this is a time consuming process but the payoff can be huge. Disproving a commonly accepted paradigm can be as rewarding and valuable as proving a new way forward.

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