Peer Rev: Harriman-Kathy exchange

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Sat Jan 13 21:34:59 EST 1996

[ some parts deteled - Alex Berezin ]

On 13 Jan 1996, Gregory R. Harriman wrote:

> In article <96013.004838U27111 at>, <U27111 at> wrote:
> > Ahhh... we are back to that again!
> > 
> > I really can't imagine a month going by without debating this issue
> > yet again?
>      If it bothers you to have to debate this issue again, I'm sorry. 
> However, I was simply responding to the statement in Berezin's article
> which started this thread stating "there is indeed relatively LITTLE
> progress coming from biomedical establishment".  Since IMHO that is an
> incorrect statement, I felt obliged to respond. 

I already replied that all statements on the rate of
progress (in any area) are highly opinionated. So,
we all equally right on this.

> > And to be very blunt... it is my personal opinion, that more
> > progress has been made due to ideas stolen from science fiction and
> > fortuitous accidents... then by some nobel pursuit for the greater
> > good.
>      You are entitled to your opinion.  Nonetheless, I doubt most people
> believe, as you apparently do, that the majority of scientists are
> corrupt, cheating, greedy or incompetent.

No, not at all. Non of us ever said the 'majority'. Lets's
settle on 10 % (usual estimate for shoplifters among the total 
population). But the contaminative effect of rotten minority
affects, unfortunately, most of us. This is a well known 
effect of the symmetry breaking:
poor a glass of wine in a barrel of sewage - the resulting
content is all sewage; 

poor a glass of sewage in barrel of wine - result the 
same (all sewage, not wine  [ the known only exception was
claimed in 1st century AD ]) 

> > Just think... what if the majority of people in science actually
> > worked towards solving problems and discovering unknowns instead of
> > where their next grant is coming from and how many journals they
> > have published in this year?
>      You do a disservice to many scientists who are interested in
> discovery and improving the health and well-being of people.  

> Is it a crime because they also have to worry about where they
> are going to get money to do research and to live on?  

Yes, it is a CRIME but not of scientists, but of the SYSTEM
which forces them (scientists) to worry how to get money for
research on almost daily basis instead spending their
worries and intelligence on how to discover.

Certainly, it is impossible to design at system which will 
eliminate all non-scietific worries completely, but wey CAN 
greatly embetter the system by eliminating over-stress in it
by the introduction of basic funding (sliding scale or similar).
Existing system opposes this by all the reasons we have 
discusssed many times earlier. 

> If you have any better ideas of how scientists can get 
> the money to do this, I'd sure be interested in hearing 
> them.

You have heard them many times, Greg. Just re-read our
earlier posters. There is plenty of research money around.
The problem is in whose pockets.

[ deletion ]

>    No doubt, many of the same
> negative attributes (greed, selfishness, incompetence, etc) which you
> endow current scientists with existed in these previous eras.  Still,
> science continues to make progress despite that. 

Yes and no. People, scientists including, are of course,
always the same. All the above (greed, selfishness, etc)  
was among them always and always will be. 

The difference, however, is that NOW the above tarits are
institutionalized and encouraged by the system. And
you are quite right - science continues DESPITE that.

In your area (biomediacal) SOME progress is achieved
IN-SPITE of the funding (NIH, MRC or whatever) system, 
not because of it.   

[ deletion ]

>      In fact, recent events should give reason for pause when 
> advocating that the government, regulatory agencies or other 
> forms of big brother are the solution.  

I don't think any of us (Kathy or me) advocate anything
like like Big Brother solution. I hope, you don't
confuse sliding scale with it. Just the opposite - basic
funding is aimed to give people on the ground much more
independence in what (and how) they decide to study/ 

[ deletion ]

>  It turns out that her lawyers were
> able to find evidence that the Secret Service (which 
> investigated her) and a member of Senator Dingell's 
> committee either (nice interpretation)
> botched the investigation or (not so nice interpretation) 
> conspired in an attempt to make Dr. Imanishi-Kari look 
> guilty.  

Whatever the particularities, Imanishi-Kari
suffered enough and I hope she will be vindicated.
But the very fact that such cruel ordeal can
happen to a creative and hard working scientist, tells 
perhaps quite something about the SYSTEM.

[ deletion ]

> Regardless, the few people out there who are trying to 
> do good science will carry on.

Agree with you on this, Greg. But this throws us to the
beginning: your 'few people' don't sound like you are sure 
they are the originally promised 'majority'. 
And, I fear, they are not. My generous 90 % (assuming
10 % of skunks) might be an overestimate.  

Alex Berezin

> Greg Harriman

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