Working hypotheses 2

October 19, 2007

I have to say that I found Susan Bassnett's piece excruciatingly patronising. My first thought was that it's very obvious she isn't a scientist. She grumbles about "people who think it's outrageous to expect them to write an article every year or so". I have news for her. If you are doing experimental work it is entirely unpredictable when you will have the data to write a paper. Demanding some fixed level of "productivity" merely encourages trivial work, and even occasionally dishonesty. The combined efforts of the Government and vice-chancellors have certainly been successful at encouraging both of those trends.

It was only towards the end of her article that Bassnett says: "If you work in a laboratory-based or practical subject, the time demands are clearly defined. Interestingly I've never heard a scientist play the seven-days-a-week card." I can only wonder whether she has talked to many scientists. She appears quite unaware of the intense competition for funds and the cut-throat atmosphere in which scientists live now, at least in the biomedical area. Not to mention the ever-increasing harassment suffered by those who do research and teaching from the burgeoning ranks of managers who do neither.

David Colquhoun, University College London.

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