Find your voice

Technology and practice can help shy and introverted researchers to succeed when reticence is risky.

Generally speaking, scientists aren’t known as a gregarious bunch. Many identify as bookish, introverted, perhaps even a bit awkward. Yet those with more outgoing, extroverted traits might find it easier to thrive in today’s scientific culture. That’s because researchers in academia and industry often have to step into the spotlight, by presenting their results at seminars and meetings and forging new relationships with colleagues, funders and, increasingly, the public.

Mastering these skills is especially important for young scientists who are trying to build their reputations and advance their careers. But for many shy or introverted researchers, these tasks can feel daunting, if not downright terrifying. They can even cause some to question their place in science, says Louise Harkness, a postdoc at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, who has blogged about the challenges of being an introverted scientist. “A future in academia is hard for the best scientists,” says Harkness, who studies treatments for respiratory disorders. “Let alone for quiet scientists who are too shy to put their work forward.

Still, quiet scientists can compete successfully with their more loquacious counterparts by cultivating their public-speaking and networking skills, as well as by engaging in creative methods of self-promotion that fit their personalities. Researchers will need to acknowledge the political dimensions of professional science and examine their own personality traits and motivations to find approaches that work best for them.

Read the full story in Nature.