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Scientists Are Talking About #FailingInSTEM And It's Refreshingly Honest

If you want to succeed in science, first you have to fail 27297324 times. And that's ok.

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Yesterday astronomy PhD student Nicole C. started a conversation about failing in science, technology, engineering and medicine, aka STEM.

We need to let our young ppl know that regular, fallible people do science. We make mistakes everyday. It's part of the job #FailingInSTEM

We don't realize that failing IS science, that there can't be discovery without failure #FailingInSTEM

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It sparked other scientists to share a time they "failed" in their careers.

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Because scientists are fallible humans too, and it's important to remember that.

Like when they flunked an exam.

Nearly failed A-Level maths - teacher said I'd "never amount to anything". Now have a PhD in Oceanography & a job in my field #FailinginSTEM

Barely scraped by w/ a D in second semester frosh physics @harveymudd. Went on to major in it & now finishing Astronomy PhD. #FailingInSTEM

Prevented in freshman year from entering engineering due to HS math scores. Went on to get math/cs BS + engineering PhD. #FailinginSTEM

Or told themselves they weren't good enough.

Told myself I would never understand chem at early age now pursuing PhD in biogeochemistry of salt marshes #FailingInSTEM #STEMeducation

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Still #failinginstem during my 2nd postdoc...

When they spent ages on things that turn out not to be things at all.

Spending an entire day debugging/rewriting code only to find the problem was in a different program. #FailinginSTEM #yesterday

Once spent 30m at telescope checking spectrograph parts to try & work out why I was getting blank images. The dome was closed #FailinginSTEM

From my PhD logbook. #failinginstem

Spent days mapping lava channels on Venus. Senior Russian scientist tells me "you are seeing things which are not there." #FailinginSTEM

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I also taught Senior Russian Scientist about Geographic Information Systems. In the end we rescued each other from our #FailinginSTEM :)

Or discovered things that have definitely already been discovered.

Spending weeks analysing telescope data only to make a completely independent discovery of ozone...in Earth's atmosphere #FailingInSTEM

Oh we're talking #FailingInSTEM? I spent a year studying what turned out to be MICROWAVE OVENS. And it was my most-read paper 😊

Because sometimes in science, things fail. And if you don't ever fail, you probably won't learn anything new.

Let's be honest. I break stuff for a living. On the REALLY good days, I fix stuff. #FailingInSTEM

So repeat after me...

#FailinginSTEM Honestly not sure I'm ready to sign this, but I can work towards it.

Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Kelly Oakes at kelly.oakes@buzzfeed.com.

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