It’s not a requirement, but it definitely is useful 🙂 It’s unlikely that at the start of your career you’ll be the best at something, there are a lot of older scientists who are genuine experts and I’ve found that since they tend to do less and less research as they get older, they are always up to discuss results and be helpful with your work.
Being able to talk about your work and ideas to other scientists is definitely important. I used to absolutely hate having to stand in front of a group of people and give a presentation but now I give them to my research group every other week and it has been really useful because it lets other scientists know what you’re up to so they can give advice on how to solve problems or give ideas other interesting things for you to look at.
It could get a bit hard being a scientist if you didn’t talk to people at all. The stereotype of a scientist working away on their own in a lab isn’t entirely relevant anymore. So much of science is done collaboratively, that you really need to discuss your work with others. When you’re getting started, lots of more senior scientists are ready and waiting to give you help and advice. Then as you progress, your colleagues can help you with problems, because chances are they’ve come across similar problems in their work! Once you have a complete piece of work without problems, you have to share your work with the rest of the scientific community, a crucial part of the scientific process! When you eventually become a senior scientist, you’ll be the one helping the new scientists! And so, the circle of life continues… 🙂
Half (or something) of science is about communication: if we can’t explain our ideas, or problems, or discoveries to others, then we won’t have any impact. So yes, we have lots of meetings, talks, sci-chats over beer, etc. — it’s often, correctly, said that the most important parts of conferences are the coffee breaks, where we have the real discussions and start new collaborations! That said, I just finished a conference of being “on” for intense conversations about everything from physics to politics for 5 long days in a row, and am right at this moment quite enjoying being on my own 🙂