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Elite scientists hold back progress?

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David and Goliath, Osmar Schindler (1888)/Notnarayan

Probably. A friend writes to mention a report on a study claiming to show that when an elite scientist dies in an academic subfield, new ideas and innovations follow:

Here’s the pattern: After the unexpected death of a rock-star scientist, their frequent collaborators — the junior researchers who authored papers with them — suddenly see a drop in publication. At the same time, there is a marked increase in published work by other newcomers to the field

Graph offered.

All this suggest there’s a “goliath’s shadow” effect. People are either prevented from or afraid of challenging a leading thinker in a field. That or scientific subfields are like grown-up versions of high school cafeteria tables. New people just can’t sit there until the queen bee dies. More.

Didn’t Kuhn say something like that in Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

This problem has been recognized elsewhere, and is a major, often unacknowledged, contributor to science scandals.

Junior scientists know something is wrong but refuse to say anything. Call it the Kanazawa effect, or maybe the Diedrik Stapel effect.

Sometimes, as in the second linked story, we are told that “authorities” intervened at last, but the information must have been provided to them by students and colleagues.

Just another reason for the open society, where truth is a commodity and lies are costly. In closed societies, it is the other way around.

See also: If peer review is working, why all the retractions?

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Note: High school cafeteria queen bee dies? Gosh, some of us thought Teen Angel was just a pop song. Yikes. 😉

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5 Replies to “Elite scientists hold back progress?

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Thats a good point I note or I think I note.
    Someone said NEW ideas in science advance one death at a time.
    This is quite logical if the dominant ideas in science ARE REALLY based on the prestige of the top people who hold them to be true.
    Since its not that way for proven theories then its the unproven ones.
    Yet it all shows that conclusions, in some or much of science, are not based on evidence but on confidence in experts.
    this is why evolution lasts because its conclusions are not based on evidence as much as on confidence in its experts. IN fact defednders stress EVOLUTION IS SCIENTIFIC more then its evidences.
    They stress critics are anti science more then disproving the actual criticisms.
    Sure they do.
    Creationists fight expertism and not just error.

  2. 2
    PaV says:

    In the 1950’s, Barbara McClintock said of transposons that their behavior was NOT random.

    Enter J.B.S. Haldane. McClintock left the field! Her results were obviously wrong and she “didn’t understand the theory” well enough to be taken as credible.

    Does this sound familiar?

    McClintock was, of course, decades ahead of everyone else, but the towering figure of Haldane would not allow this, thus delaying for almost 50 years a true understanding of epigenetic effects.

  3. 3
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    PaV, how are transposable elements considered epigenetic effects?

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Because they aren’t transposed by magic, Alicia.

    Because we aren’t talking about point mutations or frameshift mutations that occur during copying.

  5. 5
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    Mung are you trying to demonstrate your lack of biological knowledge again?
    Transposable elements cause alteration of the nucleotide sequence by moving large segments of DNA around.
    Genetics has to do with the sequence of DNA.
    Epigenetics is chemical modifications made to DNA and its regulatory proteins.
    Do yourself a favor and just stop, Mungy.

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