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Published 3 years ago with 4 Comments

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  • leweb (edited 3 years ago)

    TL/DR: The incentives in place for scientists are designed to force them to do crappy science or leave academia. I'm very close to doing the latter because it's not just frustrating, but it's starting to affect my health. A lot of my friends who do related research have left already or are seriously considering it.

    We train people for decades to become the best at doing research in their respective fields, and as soon as they get an academic position, we make them spend 95% of their time teaching and begging federal agencies for money. Wouldn't it make sense to have them spend their time on, you know, the thing they are good at? The result of this is that people who are good at politics and bullshit are the ones who are most successful, and many extremely talented scientists just leave. The further result is thousands of scientific journals full of questionable science. Don't even get me started about the things editorial houses do to force libraries to purchase all that bullshit.

    When I complain about this, the answer from older academics always is, "well, if you can't compete, maybe this is not for you". The problem is that I'm like a highly trained soccer player who is forced to compete at playing baseball. None of it makes sense, but of course the older academics will think it's a good system because they have been successful at it (or, if they're old enough, they played by very different rules).

    You almost have to wonder whether this is part of a plan by politicians in congress to destroy science (as they've always been working on at the behest of corporations). But I'm halfway between thinking that and agreeing with one of my postdocs who always says "never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity" (forgot the source of the quote).

    • Muffintop

      "people who are good at politics and bullshit are the ones who are most successful"

      Spot on! I'm still surprised to what extent this is happening. The science doesn't even have to be good. As long as you can use white lies and half truths, and play politics you'll get ahead. And once you're a "success" even if you do make a mess and do get caught, you'll just make a deal, transfer to another uni and carry on like nothing's happened.

      Having said that, there are many great scientists doing valuable research within this broken system. But, as you pointed out, many do decide to leave and that's a great loss.

      • leweb

        There are indeed people doing great science, but they're doing it in spite of the system, not thanks to it. Imagine what they would be able to accomplish if they didn't have to deal with all the bullshit.

    • moepengy

      Just separate the researchers from the teachers in terms of position at universities so they don't have to do both. Better research and better teachers problem solved.

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