Everybody wants to be noticed. Even the dorky scientist in his black rimmed glasses, sitting in the back of the room in his white lab coat, playing with his hamsters and mice he’s going to experiment on, but also happen to be his only friends. It’s a tortured life and his unkempt, frazzled hair is as white as his lab coat and mirrors the true inner turmoil he feels each and every day as he drives his Toyota Prius to work for The Man.
Have I built a stereotypical enough scientist for you? I hope so, because I was just practicing my descriptive writing. But that first sentence does hold true, even with some of the most intelligent people you meet (i.e. – scientists of all persuasions). People choose to act out in different ways to get noticed. Don’t believe me? Go to a bar in a college town on a weekend (if it’s a big enough town, on a weeknight). You think those girls dressing with their cootchies half hanging out don’t want to be noticed?
Unlike in the field of life, however, in the field of science you don’t have to dress like a total skank to get noticed. Although I imagine doing so would draw some stares. No, in science, where the field is so competitive and all of these intelligent people are competing to get their research published in the same prestigious locations, attention is gotten the way that nerdy scientists enjoy getting attention: by showing off their really big numbers.
What does that mean, exactly? If Scientist A gets his information published about the breeding habits of wallabies in urban settings in Really Prestigious Magazine, but Scientist B has been studying the breeding habits of wallabies in urban settings his whole life and wants nothing more than to get his information published in Really Prestigious Magazine too, Scientist B may try and ‘spice up’ his research a bit to make the wallabies’ breeding seem more exciting.
“What? Don’t scientists have ethics?” you ask. But of course. However, a study of this hyper-competitive field, published in The Economist, found that “…on a study of 49 papers in leading journals that had been cited by more than 1,000 other scientists. They were, in other words, well-regarded research. But he found that, within only a few years, almost a third of the papers had been refuted by other studies.” Yikes.
If you have a subscription to The Economist, you can check out the article titled Publish and Be Wrong (a little fear mongering, eh?) and then probably go have sex with your supermodel wife/girlfriend, because if you have a subscription to The Economist, you’re probably really rich. If you’re like me and don’t have a subscription, you can check out the full article here.
Now I’m going to go take pictures of the global warming happening outside of my apartment and see if I can get Congress to notice so they’ll do something about it.