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I am working on a hot topic of research in a subfield, and I am possibly going to cooperate with a senior research scientist who is interested in this topic specifically. However, during our discussion, he mentioned that all research that has been done up to this point are rubbish, which, to be honest, may be correct. I am a bit confused about whether this could be a warning sign about collaborating with him.

The question is: Could this attitude be a warning sign to not collaborate with a potentially arrogant senior researcher?

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    Seems like inadequate evidence.
    – Buffy
    Nov 2, 2018 at 22:04
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    Enquire other colleagues, lab mates, as many people as you can, before joining the project. This will avoid a lot of trouble and expenses, gather enough evidence to judge. Some degree of arrogance is rather common, and often not detrimental.
    – Scientist
    Nov 2, 2018 at 22:06
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    Are you trying to make inferences about someone's character based on a single sentence? That seems like a stretch! Nov 2, 2018 at 23:20
  • The question is unclear -- how, exactly, is the potential collaborator coming off as arrogant in this situation?
    – Mad Jack
    Nov 3, 2018 at 1:38
  • Just means he has strong opinions on the subject and, as you pointed out, his opinions may be right. Don't see any problem with the researcher as far as what you've described so far. Nov 3, 2018 at 1:44

2 Answers 2

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Dismissal of previous research in the field is not problematic in itself. As you concede in the question, you may even share this assessment. The possible problem, which you can't really assess from one general comment like this, is whether the researcher lets that opinion drive his research in inappropriate ways. I'd say that's a question of emotional maturity. Does this person need to be right where everybody else is wrong, in order to feel fulfilled or successful? That would be a big problem. But, being overly risk-averse, and "going with the flow" too much, could also be a problem. In science, the main thing is to look at evidence dispassionately, and draw conclusions based on the scientific method. Any character trait or emotional immaturity can threaten one's ability to do that.

TL;DR: It's not a problem in itself, but it could lead you toward some worthwhile inquiry. Focus on the person's ability to manage their strong opinions or emotional dispositions and integrate them into appropriate scientific techniques, not so much on the specifics of what those opinions or emotional dispositions are.

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Like others, I would say it's just a single data point. Also look at if the guy is a hype scientist or domineering with advisees. Ask his students how he is and ask a few students outside his group but at his department. If he's a bad guy, you will find more smoke.

You might also see how you click with the guy. I like a flippant, cut through the euphemisms style. Some don't. But I hate hype science. If he was self deprecating in an sarcastic manner as well that would be a positive for me. But you have to figure out if you can work with him or not. And some of it depends on you, not him.

Good job letting your spidey sense tingle.

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