What is your Scientific Alignment?

Do you believe in peer-review, or would you rather get rid of this false token? Do you call out people who publish statistical errors, or do you think doing this is methodological terrorism? Do you seek to advance your personal goals, or do you above all value the pursuit of science?

In other words… what is your Scientific Alignment?

From the altruistic Lawful Good to the selfish Chaotic Evil scientist, this infallible dual-axis system of categorizing scientists is able to accurately place every scientist in a box and will not cause any discontent whilst doing so. In a mixed methods pilot study with n = 1, it was found that the reliability of this test is just slightly above every arbitrary threshold.

Read the description below, or jump ahead and immediately take the quiz! Did you already take the quiz once? Rest assured, it is also completely valid to take the quiz in name of someone else so you can classify and judge them accordingly.

Lawful versus Chaotic

The law/chaos axis distinguishes researchers’ attitudes about the order and structure of academia. A core issue of this spectrum is whether the existing laws and structures in academic are for better or worse. The scientific community has an extensive set of written and unwritten rules which are based on consensus or simply tradition, such as the peer-review system, the publication system, incentives to do certain types or amounts of work, and a linear career progress through a pre-defined hierarchy.

The Lawful scientist will argue that these laws bring order to the life and work of scientists which creates consistency and reliability. Existing systems such as peer review and the publishing system should be maintained and honored, as they help to guarantee and maintain the quality of the scientific literature. A Lawful scientist will only consider the traditional journals to be worthwhile, and will consider other publishing venues to not be trustworthy. (S)He will be resistant to substantial changes to the status quo, such as open access, pre-registration, and demands for (direct) replications.

Chaotic scientists tend to believe that these laws do more harm than good and leads to bad incentives and an illegitimate authority of the publishers syndicate. They will argue that current system has corrupted academia and turned it into a game of chasing so-called quality indices such as citation ranks and the h-index. Lawfulness leads to closed-mindedness and restrictive hierarchies, which keep scientists from engaging in high quality research.

The lawfully Neutral scientist sees merits in the points of the lawful and chaotic researcher, but sees no reason why (s)he should either comply with the rules or actively rebel against them. Instead, the lawfully Neutral respects individual choice and personal freedom. These researchers tend to comply with most academia’s rules – if only out of convenience – but can easily switch to less lawful alternatives if that is more beneficial at that moment.

Good versus Evil

The struggle between good and evil is not just mythical, but is very real in the scientific world. The good/evil axis separates researchers in how they balance advancing the common good of science versus advancing their own personal goals.

The Good scientist is altruistic, and has a high concern for science as the main goal of his/her work. A Good scientist does not engage in the scientific method to advance his/her own agenda, such as job security or renown, but only to advance the human race in its quest for knowledge. As they think that science is bigger than themselves, they will make sacrifices when necessary, such as actively retracting one of their own papers for inconsistencies even when this will harm their academic career.

The Evil scientist seeks to further his personal agenda, and looks for ways to increase his standing in the (scientific) community. They do not consider the veracity of the scientific literature as important, or simply do not recognize that this is an issue at all. Instead, they are occupied with playing the game in a way that they benefit from, especially when it helps to increase their esteem and renown. An Evil scientist will tend to show ‘tough love’ for his subordinates and suggest (or demand) that they work long hours to obtain publishable results.

The Neutral scientists will be considerate both of their own agenda, as well as the quality of the scientific record. Whenever possible, they will try to balance both goals and operate more according to the principles of Good or Evil on a case-by-case basis. The Neutral scientist will generally not call out Evil research practices, but will also not be strict in enforcing Good research practices. Instead, a Neutral scientist is flexible in his/her conduct, and tends to rationalize this by having a pragmatic and/or relativistic view on what is important in science.

The Scientific Alignment quiz

Take the quiz, what is your Scientific Alignment? Don’t forget to share the results in the comments and on social media!

The current peer-review system ….

3 thoughts on “What is your Scientific Alignment?

  1. Thanks for this. I now know I am a Neutral Good scientist. Guess that’s why I chose a research area that needed rigor, and didn’t pay attention to the obvious-in-retrospect potential to make everyone mad by bringing rigor to it.

  2. If one is doing science in a narrow field, where there are few peers available to review one’s work, it is possible to run into obstacles to a paper being published that advances science. In particular, a paper that undermines the work of the peers who are reviewing it, will be rejected because very few scientists are willing to believe that there can be faults with the work that has given them tenure and endowed chairs. I left academics due to these very circumstances. Before being submitted, my papers had been carefully read by a recent and relatively young Nobel laureate who is widely regarded as being one of the brightest people in my field. He was not one of the reviewers because, although he was an expert on the topic of my paper, his research focus had changed. No errors in my methods or analysis were cited as reasons for my papers being rejected. Rather, they were rejected because my paper had generalized the analyses of the others working in the field, restricted the set of outcomes consistent with universally accepted standard assumptions, and this restricted set ruled out results in the published work of my reviewers. Your questionaire labels me a Neutral Good scientist. The truth is that I tired of having my work judged by Lawful Evil scientists. My personal commitment is to be a Lawful Good scientist. However, this is not possible when referees are Lawful Evil people.

    • Thanks for commenting, Leonard. I’m sorry to hear your story. While I have not personally encountered such resistance yet, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be. I do have the impression that science is slowly changing, for the better. I hope that in a (academic) generation or two, these experiences will have become extremely rare. Perhaps I’m too naive; but I guess that is what makes me a chaotic good scientist.

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