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The science game


Posted November 20, 2012 by Dr. Henri Montandon

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Once upon a time, guys and gals read the sports pages for the drama of how their teams and their favorite sports warriors were doing. Batting averages, total yards gained, what Federer wore to Center Court at Wimbledon, these were the kinds of things that provided conversations among aficionados. At some point that started to change. Now, articles appear about contract disputes, trading strategies, salary caps, management turnover,  until reading the sports pages is more like reading the Wall Street Journal and less like reading, well, the sports pages. People pay attention to the financial, organizational and political aspects of the sports world.

The science world is no different. The Darwin sailed on a ship, retired to his country estate to think, and came up with the best idea anyone ever had. The Einstein daydreamed in the patent office until his creative ideas transformed physics. But now, Craig Venter sequences DNA as a corporate venture. Universities are not just knowledge factories, but multinational knowledge conglomerates, and the road to permanent employment is “Patent or Perish”.

According to Google, The Scientist: Magazine of Life Sciences is a professional magazine intended for life scientists. Coverage includes reviews of widely noticed research papers, informing its audience of current research, updates to technology, updates to career information, profiles of scientists achieving notoriety, as well as other columns and reports of interest to its audience.

Financial, political and organizational reporting figure large in its monthly story cycle. Just like the sports pages! Here’s a sampling of recent articles of interest to neuroscientists: Brain Scans Predict Reading Skills, Happiness by Numbers, Slime Mold Smarty Pants, Mites Remember Enemies, Fight Back, Ketamine Encourages Nerve Remodeling, Can Magnesium Magnify Brain Power?, Einstein’s Unusual Brain, Brain Waves from the Beyond, An “Unconscious” Man Talks.

And here is a sampling from the science game: Less Influence for High-Impact Journals, Science and the 2012 Election, Do Innocent Errors Cause Most Retractions?, AAAS: Don’t Label GM Foods, Save the NIH from Sequestration, Gender Bias when Hiring Scientists, The NSF Shake-Up, Predatory Publishing.

As Big Science goes corporate, there is something of the utmost importance to keep in mind. The world shaking, paradigm shifting, Daily Show guesting ideas still most often come from individuals. Division of labor fosters large enterprises for the instantiation of these ideas, but the ideas themselves, the Great Theories that make human kind worth having around, these, like the songs the whales sing, are the precious gifts of individual genius.

Current issues of The Scientist are available free on the website.



Dr. Henri Montandon



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