Is science sometimes in danger of getting tunnel vision? Recently published ebook author, Ian Miller, looks at other possible theories arising from data that we think we understand. Can looking problems in a different light give scientists a different perspective?

Being Discovered

Recently we have seen on the American Chemical Society website a sign  “Publish Be Found or Perish”. This rings a bell with me because there is a similar discussion going on with book authors. Yes, you have to write something that is worth reading, either with books or with scientific papers, but the whole exercise is a waste of effort unless someone reads the work, and by definition, quality has nothing to do with the first reading because if you do not know what is in the paper or book, you do not now whether it has quality or not.
So, how, as a scientist, do you get discovered? The short answer from me is, I do not know. With books, the best answer seems to be, “Get lucky!” The second best option is, “Be persistent!” This is, of course, what you have to do to maximize your chances of getting lucky. For any given time you do something, there is a certain chance that it will be noticed, so the more you do, the more chances. Publishing scientific papers in top journals probably helps. If you have a sequence of papers in one journal that is well-read in that topic, your name will eventually be recognized. Conference presentations probably help, because by circulating, people put a face to your name.
Does anyone see a problem here? What you end up with is the people being found are the academics with lots of students working for them, and with good budgets for going to conferences. The problem is, those who are found that way are those who are known anyway. It becomes very difficult for the young scientist to be discovered, other than through being associated with someone famous. To be discovered by association means the discovered has almost certainly adopted the workings of his mentor, otherwise his name will not be on the papers. This reinforces the workings of “normal science” as defined by Kuhn, but the question then is, is that the way we want science to work? Do we want to have uniform acceptance of the current paradigm, or do we want to see whether we are missing something? The ones more likely to be original are the young scientists, because they have less invested in the current paradigm, but they are also the least likely to be found.
Posted by Ian Miller on May 20, 2013 5:25 AM Europe/London

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