Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Science isn’t fair


Life isn’t fair, science is part of life therefore science isn’t fair. This would be a very short way to say what I am thinking but this is a rant so I will stretch it out a bit more.

We learn early on that in our line of work there is almost no correlation between the amount of work we do and the results we get. You need luck and I am not turning mystical on you here. I mean the low likelihood kind of luck. Even if you do everything right, being successful in science depends mostly on factors that are outside your control. A somewhat random pool of people end up being in the right place and the right time to go on with their academic work. Almost like a game of musical chairs, those with enough passion and perseverance to sustain the blows of lady luck get to play in the final rounds. Granted that I have been at this only for a few years but I have seen my share of hard working people getting scooped or hitting the wall with impossible projects. Try to explain scooping to non-scientists to see how ridiculous that sounds. I have also seen people (myself included) getting authorships for things I would not consider worthy of such.

So … science isn’t fair. This was exactly the sort of observations that made me start thinking about open science a few years ago. We could help to even out the playing field if we all are a bit more open about what we are working on. Too many financial and personal resources are eaten away to the duplication of research agendas.