Scientists don’t usually have a reputation for being very creative. They have to adhere to the scientific method, use statistics and data, and carefully measure their results—activities that would appear to take the magic out of the creative process, like having to explain your own joke. But few would dispute that the great scientific and technological innovators were creative thinkers.
"The greatest scientists are artists as well," as Albert Einstein said.
“I think we take for granted that we rely heavily on science creativity, whether we realize it or not,” said Rex Jung, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Whether we use our advanced technology to watch cat videos or take advantage of life-saving medical procedures, scientific innovation is “incredibly important to our quality of life,” Jung said.
Society needs creative scientists for continued innovation. But does the process for teaching scientific creativity differ from artistic creativity? And can creativity be taught?
Scientists have a bad creative rap, Jung said, because their work is more tangible and “real.”
“Our work builds on previous work—you’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “We’re incrementally working to expand upon previous work, and that is deemed less creative, or somehow derivative. But I would argue that artists do the same thing.” Cubist artists built upon the foundation of impressionism, Jung noted, just as scientists innovate based on the work conducted before their own.*