Limits...
An enduring enthusiasm for academic science, but with concerns.

Pringle JR - Mol. Biol. Cell (2013)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305.

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I have no regrets and hope to continue for years to come, because I remain an unabashed enthusiast for both the research and education components of this profession... As a graduate student, postdoc on two continents, faculty member at three universities, and dean for graduate students and postdocs, I have seen plenty of nasty stuff: subcompetent people obstructing progress at all levels; arrogance and self-centered insensitivity to the feelings of others; exploitation of students and postdocs by faculty; dishonesty ranging from exaggerated claims and the concealment of inconvenient data to gross fabrication; pointless and demeaning squabbles about priority and authorship; abuse of the still-critical tenure system; inappropriate behavior by editors and reviewers; and behavior driven by lust for power, money, and fame rather than by any desire to understand nature and (perhaps) improve human well-being in the process... Wilson, and the host of others who have helped to push back the fog of ignorance and open ever more of the universe to human understanding... As I watched the Nobel Prize ceremonies in 2001, I found tears running down my cheeks, not because of my personal connections to the laureates and the work for which they were being honored, but because the language of the citations—about the importance of science for the human spirit and the betterment of the human condition—was so incredibly moving... High-school math was easy and fun, so I decided to become a mathematician... But by good luck, I went to Harvard, where comparisons to some classmates suggested that I did not have big-league talent in this field either... Fortunately, a spring break spent with my roommate's evolutionary-biology books (when I was supposed to be doing math and physics) revealed the fascination of biology just as E... Fortunately, there is a growing realization that we need to wrest control of our most important decisions back from people who have neither the competence (nor, typically, the motivation) to make those decisions well (; ; www.ascb.org/SFdeclaration.html)... Reducing the perceived importance of publishing in certain journals should also reduce the temptations toward overstatement, concealment of nuance and doubt, and outright fakery... Publishing one's work used to be (mostly) fun and satisfying, but it is now too frequently an excruciating ordeal for all concerned... My own observation is that a third reviewer should be needed <10% of the time and only when the first two reviewers disagree wildly and the editor does not have the competence to adjudicate the matter (which, ideally, should not happen very often at a well-run journal)... The decreased quality of publications... I could rant at length but will restrict myself to just a few of the problems that I find most aggravating. 1) The fundamental error of confusing brevity per se with tight writing... They are not actually needed to convey the most important contents of a paper, and they are objectionable for two reasons... First, they almost always overstate the solidity of the main conclusion(s), whereas a decent humility in the face of the complexity of nature is a more becoming posture for a scientist.

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John R. Pringle
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An enduring enthusiasm for academic science, but with concerns.

Pringle JR - Mol. Biol. Cell (2013)

John R. Pringle
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3814142&req=5

Figure 1: John R. Pringle

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305.

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

I have no regrets and hope to continue for years to come, because I remain an unabashed enthusiast for both the research and education components of this profession... As a graduate student, postdoc on two continents, faculty member at three universities, and dean for graduate students and postdocs, I have seen plenty of nasty stuff: subcompetent people obstructing progress at all levels; arrogance and self-centered insensitivity to the feelings of others; exploitation of students and postdocs by faculty; dishonesty ranging from exaggerated claims and the concealment of inconvenient data to gross fabrication; pointless and demeaning squabbles about priority and authorship; abuse of the still-critical tenure system; inappropriate behavior by editors and reviewers; and behavior driven by lust for power, money, and fame rather than by any desire to understand nature and (perhaps) improve human well-being in the process... Wilson, and the host of others who have helped to push back the fog of ignorance and open ever more of the universe to human understanding... As I watched the Nobel Prize ceremonies in 2001, I found tears running down my cheeks, not because of my personal connections to the laureates and the work for which they were being honored, but because the language of the citations—about the importance of science for the human spirit and the betterment of the human condition—was so incredibly moving... High-school math was easy and fun, so I decided to become a mathematician... But by good luck, I went to Harvard, where comparisons to some classmates suggested that I did not have big-league talent in this field either... Fortunately, a spring break spent with my roommate's evolutionary-biology books (when I was supposed to be doing math and physics) revealed the fascination of biology just as E... Fortunately, there is a growing realization that we need to wrest control of our most important decisions back from people who have neither the competence (nor, typically, the motivation) to make those decisions well (; ; www.ascb.org/SFdeclaration.html)... Reducing the perceived importance of publishing in certain journals should also reduce the temptations toward overstatement, concealment of nuance and doubt, and outright fakery... Publishing one's work used to be (mostly) fun and satisfying, but it is now too frequently an excruciating ordeal for all concerned... My own observation is that a third reviewer should be needed <10% of the time and only when the first two reviewers disagree wildly and the editor does not have the competence to adjudicate the matter (which, ideally, should not happen very often at a well-run journal)... The decreased quality of publications... I could rant at length but will restrict myself to just a few of the problems that I find most aggravating. 1) The fundamental error of confusing brevity per se with tight writing... They are not actually needed to convey the most important contents of a paper, and they are objectionable for two reasons... First, they almost always overstate the solidity of the main conclusion(s), whereas a decent humility in the face of the complexity of nature is a more becoming posture for a scientist.

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