Is there room for creativity in science?

Scientists have very strict methods to follow during their work. Can they be creative despite it?

The months of March and April are being very eventful for the ESRs of PersonalizeAF. We had our 2nd Consortium meeting last month, which has been a great opportunity to see what everyone is up to, now that we have a better idea of our projects and our goals. Unfortunately, the meeting had once again to be virtual, but hopefully we can finally start having in person meetings soon.

One of the tasks in the Academic Creative Thinking course was to go out for a walk and take a picture. Here's mine of a nice Maastricht afternoon

We are also in the middle of our 2nd Personalize AF workshop, with tons of interesting courses ranging from engineer related topics, such as signal and image processing, to those more focused on the physiological aspects of AF. We also had a very peculiar session focused on Academic Creative Thinking, which was very interesting and brings me to the provocative title of this post.

This course was focused on improving the way we think creatively when we are faced with the most diverse tasks that involve this ability, whether that is putting together an interesting lecture, writing papers or blog posts. There are surprisingly efficient techniques one can apply there, and for someone a bit methodical like me it was interesting to have the creative process broken down in a way we can truly apply in our daily lives.

However, in one of the sections, in which we had to discuss use of creativity in our careers, one of our colleagues mentioned he did not think there was much room for creativity in science. His point was that we always must base our future work in prior knowledge, and you cannot simply make up thinks, thus limiting your creativity.

This got me thinking quite a bit. My instincts were to disagree immediately, for two reasons: first, I always had the feeling that coming up with an original research idea was a very creative and difficult process, despite being based in previous work. Second, I have a musical background, and music has always been made based on those who came before and influenced you, and no one could argue making music is not a creative process.

There are clear differences though, and science is a more limited world, especially when it comes to following a careful method and abiding to the spoken and unspoken rules of authorship, peer reviews, and citations. In music, Mozart never had to cite Bach in his work and Greta van Fleet insists they are not influenced by Led Zeppelin.

So, I want to use this space to throw the ball to you and hear what you all think about this: is there room for creativity in science? What have been your experiences with that in the past? Do you feel like your work demands your creativity routinely?

Some questions never crossed Bach's mind

Let us know what you think through our social media (and be sure to follow us to get the newest updates about the project)! I am curious to hear in which contexts you had to be creative in your scientific careers, and I will wrap up your stories in a future post.

See you then!