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An end to “big egos” in science?


We’re told that the fall of brilliant-but-bullying Eric Lander portends that:

The resignation of Eric Lander as President Biden’s lead scientific adviser is not just a blow to one president’s plans for advancing research, but a signpost on the death march of a certain way of doing science. It’s not quite “big science,” which isn’t going anywhere. Call it “big ego.”

In science, “big ego” isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. But in recent decades it grew with the emergence of researchers who could both handle the kind of gloves-off debate that can mark academic discourse and marshal vast resources to make certain types of scientific discoveries, like mapping genomes or understanding how molecular changes in a cell lead to cancer.

Matthew Herper, “The fall of Eric Lander and the end of science’s ‘big ego’ era” at StatNews (February 9, 2022)

We are informed that, whereas such jobs once required “an outsize personality,” today, “the consequences of behaving badly at work have become so large.”

Hmm. Let’s see what happens. If Lander is replaced by a string of polite mediocrities who are frightened by the idea of vision, well… the science may go nowhere but at least they will be polite about it. And we all have (and need) our priorities.

You might as well ask for an end to "big egos" in people in general. Seversky
One hopeful sign is that universities are gradually phasing out tenure. The percent of tenured faculty has gone down from 58% in the 90s to 45% now, and steadily declining. Universities are hiring more adjuncts and part-timers. More teachers have one foot in the real world and one foot in academia. Tenure is the power source for the personality cult in academia. polistra

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