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Why young people should think hard about going into science

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From Kendall Powell at Nature:

But some data and anecdotal evidence suggest that scientists do face more hurdles in starting research groups now than did many of their senior colleagues 20–30 years ago. Chief among those challenges is the unprecedented number competing for funding pools that have remained stagnant or shrunk in the past decade. “The number of people is at an all-time high, but the number of awards hasn’t changed,” says Jon Lorsch, director of the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) in Bethesda, Maryland. “A lot of people with influence on the system recognize this is a serious problem and are trying to fix it.”

Young scientists and senior scientists alike feel an acute pressure to publish and are weighed down by a growing bureaucratic burden, with little administrative support. They are largely judged on their record of publishing and of winning grants — but without clear targets, they find themselves endlessly churning out paper after paper. The crucial question is whether this is harming science and scientists. Bruce Alberts, a prominent biochemist at the University of California, San Francisco, and former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, says that it is. The current hyper-competitive atmosphere is stifling creativity and pushing scientists “to do mediocre science”, he says — work that is safe and uninteresting. “We’ve got to reward people who do something differently.” More.

We didn’t say, don’t go into science. But read the linked article and think hard.

Maybe this atmosphere is one reason why, for a number of years, science media releases in biology were chock full of  institutional patter in the form of unexamined Darwindrivel. Advancing a new idea, however correct, would just be too risky.

Maybe, with the Royal Society taking up the cause of rethinking evolution, we will see much less Darwinism—that is, only where warranted, not because “it is just the way we talk now.”

May it soon prove so for all science disciplines.

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