Your article “Chartered UK scientists: benchmark or bureaucracy?” (News, 20 April) reported on the Science Council’s drive to get more academics and university technicians to seek professional recognition by registering or achieving chartered status.
Neither the Science Council nor my own professional institute understands that there are plenty of real scientists working outside the confines of academia and commercial research organisations. The evolving system sets a trend to exclude all who do not collaborate in formal institutional “research teams” – as James Lovelock observed in his most recent book, the days of the lone scientist are almost over.
Yet some of us still survive. A few are “mavericks” – the “free professionals” who work as consultants to international agencies and even (Heaven forbid!) lawyers. Others of us are supposedly retired, members of the Old Codger Brigade, who are at last free to say what we really think about the mediocratic bureaucracy that is now trying to cram recruits to our profession into identical, clearly labelled little grey boxes.
Fifteen months ago, I formally refused to continue to register as a “chartered scientist”, to the surprise of those in my society, of which I am a fellow. People don’t do such things, their response implied – how will your peers regard you if you recant after so many years as a professional scientist?
Well, I didn’t recant at all – I just told them that the whole thing was a charade, a box-ticking classification system that has absolutely no meaning as an indicator of my science credentials. It is, in fact, a scam designed to collect yet more taxes from fearful, gullible up-and-coming young science professionals. As a free professional with a heck of a track record, and a card-carrying loner, the people for whom I’ve worked in the past know what I do and how I do it. I’ve never had to carry the crutch of professional indemnity insurance, and never lost a case in court.
Continuing professional development – the dreary annual accounting demanded for chartered scientist status and other such trivia – is a worthless and easily manipulated paper exercise. This registration caper is merely an inevitable extension of a grotesquely failing higher education system that is designed to provide “qualifications” – such as degrees – for all. Very recently, I also resigned from a proposed post as a visiting lecturer after a full two hours. The final-year students had not the faintest understanding of the material that I was expected to provide them, yet on eventual inevitable graduation they would be enticed into the new qualifications merry-go-round by the professional societies and the Science Council.
We parted on good terms, the Science Council and I, with absolutely no expectations of any re-examination of any change in course. My society was less sanguine about my abandoning its cherished project, but my defection hasn’t made the slightest difference to my reputation or standing.
So if you as a scientist, engineer or any other professional are willing to rely on your track record rather than meaningless CPD to keep the salary rolling in, don’t be afraid to stand up against the mediocrats. The people who need your talents will spot them and offer what they consider you are really worth to them. The days of the interminable string of post-nominals are past – as I wrote on my blog “Forget the CPD – just call me Mister!”