In a podcast interview between Tyler Cowen, an economist and Byron Auguste, an economist, and a CEO of a labor force development non-profit, this interesting exchange:
COWEN: At the margin, if you’re trying to retrain someone, would you rather they had higher IQ or higher conscientiousness? Which is more scarce?
AUGUSTE: Well, it depends, in part, on what you’re training them for.
COWEN: Sure, but on average. People who are 25 and over —
AUGUSTE: I think IQ is overrated and conscientiousness is underrated for the most part because people can learn new things, but as you know, learning can be uncomfortable. First of all, it requires realizing you don’t really know a thing, paying attention to where, “Oh, I sort of know this,” but looking at the finer points. Yes, I think conscientiousness probably matters more on the whole.
It seems to me that both are important for being a research chemist, but I imagine higher IQ would be helpful for most research-oriented tasks (i.e. making unexpected connections, etc, etc.) That said, I suspect that for most tasks in any organization within the chemical enterprise, you would take a higher-conscientiousness person every time.
(the whole episode is worth a listen, if only to hear Auguste talk about the various places where credentialism is impacting the labor market)