Scientist could do nothing wrong in my book. Lab coats were basically the equivalent of a superhero cape. After reading my classmate’s blog post and reading my own assigned chapter my perspective of scientist has changed. They are no longer wear the white hat.
“…the high pressure of competition can tempt even the best scientist into dangerous territory.”(pg.170) Science has always been a competitive field. Everyone wants to be the first to find the new break through and cure what was thought to be incurable. Charles Darwin developed his evolution through natural selection theory by spending years in the Galapagos Island. “He didn’t start out with a coherent hypothesis; he was simply driven by curiosity,”(pg.169) Darwin did not spend years in the Galapagos to try to beat everyone else to the finish line but instead he did it out of pure passion and the curiosity. He was not in a rush to publish his findings. He only began rushing once he found out one of his rivals was developing a similar theory. In a situation like this I am sure many of us would have done the same. After spending decades on an island which I am sure did not have the amenities that the mainland had I would not let my rival beat me to the punch. In the nineteenth century the only stake for not publishing quickly was pride. Nowadays there is much more at stake for scientist. Money is now a big factor for sloppy work.
“ ‘It doesn’t necessarily pay to be right. It actually pays to be sloppy and just cut corners and get there first.’ ”(pg.72) Projects that are more likely to succeed quicker are usually chosen by researchers over the projects that will provide bold insights. The projects that succeed quicker keep the funding flowing. Many scientist get into their field in hopes of spending their time experimenting but due to low funding scientist that run the labs spend more time writing grant proposals than spending time in their lab. Not only is sloppy work and fast publications a problem in the U.S but it is also a very big issue in Asia. If a Chinese scientist gets published in Science, Nature, or Cell they get a cash bonus. Although the government might think of giving cash as an incentive to get good work done it actually ignites greed and sloppy papers that are often later retracted.
Finding a job in academic research is difficult. Most graduates have a hard time finding a good paying job. A lot of the potential jobs look for a postdoc publication from those grads. Most jobs will not even consider qualified candidates if they are not published in one of the top tier journals. The problem with that is that most top tier journals look for fancy, flashy and shiny papers to publish. Not necessarily the most accurate work. The editors often overlook important mistakes and publish sloppy work. Lower profile journals analyse work with more precision, the paper do not need to be fancy but accurate. Jobs overlook qualified individuals by not giving non flashy papers a try. This leads to graduates cutting corners in their work and sometimes even fabricated data.” ‘ they will bend the truth to make it fit because their career is on the line.’ ” (pg.177) Scientist should not feel the need to “bend the truth” because they need a good paying job.
This whole chapter basically reminded us that scientist are not superheros. Scientist are just like everyone else that withhold the truth sometimes. No one likes to admit that. We all see scientist as the people that will one day cure cancer and they never make mistakes. But that is not true. Scientist also have families, they also need money and most of the time they have big egos. It is time for scientist to go back to its roots and remember that ordinary people like me depend on them to actually make breakthroughs.