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Old April 9 2014, 07:08 PM   #16
Location: Kentucky
Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Don't blame me. I'm just quoting the Nobel Prize winner who made groundbreaking advances in figuring how how DNA and RNA work. Perhaps you should bitch at him.

He's saying that one of the problems (among many), is that due to the way we fund things, very few really bright scientists (and scientists know who these people are) are given free rein to explore down whole knew untried avenues, into areas where few or none have yet ventured. Yet science used to operate much like that when he was getting started, or at least to a much greater degree. He got a lab and a lot of freedom to pursue new ideas, ones that pretty much his whole field said were ridiculous (he proved them wrong).

Now the funding is much more results oriented, and the committees want you to explain what you're going to find even before you find it, and on top of that explain what the significance of the discovery will be. Those requirements pretty much rule out finding something unexpected, transformational, and totally knew except by accident.

Part of the reason the Nobel Prize carries a cash award is that the recipients, having proven themselves brilliant, groundbreaking thinkers, can take the money and come up with something else that nobody was expecting, with no strings attached. When we made so many scientists public employees (kind of like garbage men with better offices), we attached a lot of strings to what they did. They have to be "productive", otherwise they could get let go. Tenure is an attempt to stave off that situation, but tenure itself doesn't confer research dollars.
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