Idealists hiding out in laboratories

This table is taken from a survey report on the attitudes of NZ scientists, available here [link] – it’s a few years old, but interesting to see how idealistic scientists in this country seem to be. The first two (i.e. most popular) items on the list particularly struck me – “the search for truth and knowledge”, and the “improvement of the … conditions of humanity” are both quite noble ideals; interesting anyway.
Table 15: Reasons to become a scientist.
                                                                                                                  1996                      2008
Intrigue with the search for truth and knowledge             32.9%                    34.9%
Desire to contribute to the improvement of the                18.7%                    23.8%
material and intellectual conditions of humanity
Expectation of a sense of accomplishment                           17.4%                    16.0%
Influence of an older scientist                                                    8.5%                        8.7%
My chosen field was easier and more fun for me                14.4%                       7.8%
Desire to achieve a comfortable lifestyle                               2.7%                          3.4%
Other                                                                                                      1.7%                          1.7%
Desire to follow in the footsteps of great thinkers               0.9%                         1.4%
Expectations of other persons                                                      1.4%                         1.0%
Potential to become famous for my research                         0.6%                        0.9%
Potential to achieve greater wealth                                             0.6%                       0.7%

Isaac Newton would approve.

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