Scientists torn between cash and kudos

With ailing banks propped up by billions in taxpayers’ money and nations rolling through the mud of economic recession is it any surprise that we get mightily frustrated to hear of their enormous bonuses and golden pension pots? Of course not… But, here’s a thought…

As the lines drawn between commercial and academic research become increasingly blurred, isn’t it also a little odd that it’s scientists who manage science, scrutinise the activities of science, validate the science, and award scientists their grants?

In a market-driven world of consumerism with the constant pressure to perform, there seems to be a growing need for scientists to use some of the more peculiar phrases from the office of the marketing executives rather than those at the bench-face.

Phrases such as “stakeholder benefits”, “wealth creation”, “technological investment”, “knowledge transfer”, “verticalised leveraging of horizontal resources” and others are becoming all to common in grant application “executive summaries” and departmental “mission statements”. Okay, I made that last one up about verticalised horizontal resources, but you get the idea?

And, here’s a quote from a paper in a management journal:

The commercialisation pressures are reflected in government policy frameworks and institutional contexts for scientific work which are reconfiguring the context within which scientists work and raising questions about their identities, values, roles, motivations and careers.

I know what they’re saying, but does that sound like science to you?

It’s actually a quote from a paper entitled: “The public good vs. commercial interest: research scientists in search of an accommodation” due to appear in the International Journal of Learning and Change (full ref. below). In it, Rose Wong of Massey University, Wellington Campus, in New Zealand and Robert Westwood of the School of Management, at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia, argue that the changing environment that has brought management-speak to the fore in the scientific process is producing significant tensions.

Those tensions are due to the fact that scientists are being torn between their traditional ethos and the philosophy of commercialisation. Although many are coping well with leveraging their knowledge for transfer purposes others are struggling to come to terms with the changes or reconcile the two perspectives on scientific discovery.

In times of adversity, bankers seem to pat each other on the back with wads of cash and give each other golden handshakes, is that attitude what we as a society want from our scientists, is that what scientists want from society?

Research Blogging IconRose H.C. Wong, & Robert Westwood (2010). The public good vs. commercial interest: research scientists in search of an accommodation Int. J. Learning and Change , 4 (1), 77-97

Author: 雷竞技官网

Award-winning freelance science writer, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rockstar.