Graduates of school of hard knocks

March 31, 1995

Aisling Irwin (THES, March 24) bases her arguments against the proposition "Trust me, I am a scientist" on crude stereotypes and oversimplistic categorisations, muddles science with technology, and attacks the wrong target.

The scientists who make important discoveries are usually not naive about the world or unsuspicious about it neither do they wear woolly jumpers any more than anybody else. Rather, they are products of the school of hard knocks as they have had to fight hard for money in an environment far more competitive and ruthless than commerce, have nearly always worried about priority to the point of paranoia, and will have used rhetoric to get their ideas across.

Their wishes are never met because of funding limits, priority setting by politicians, the activities of powerful ethical committees, the antivivisection laws, and dozens of other constraints, not the least of which is public pressure. Should not the argument be about the trustworthiness of their work ?

T.H. Pennington

Department of Medical Microbiology

Aberdeen Royal Hospital

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