Macho Science

SLForsburg susan_forsburg at
Fri Mar 24 20:58:29 EST 1995

karine.hertzberg at (Karine Hertzberg) wrote:
> In article <67871.emklann at>,
> emklann at MARLIN.BIO.UMASS.EDU ("Ellen M. Klann") wrote:
> > I think one of the major factors contributing to "macho science" is the
> > intense competition found in the States to obtain and keep even the lowliest research
> > position.    I think people running labs (men and women) forced into
> > attitudes of the compulsive work-aholic to try to keep their heads above
> > water.  I would like to think that these people, if given a chance of
> > spending less time at the lab but maintaining their scientific reputation,
> > would jump at it. 
> To be serious, I'm actually amazed at some of the postings from americans
> in this newsgroup, so things are definitely different in Norway (and I
> would add, in Scandinavia, which I have some knowledge of). Although it's
> not uncommon to work more than 40 hours a week, especially in certain
> periods, it's nowhere near the 60 hour work pressure which seems to be the
> rule in the US. I'm a PhD-student, who are supposed to be among the more
> hard-working, and all other PhD-students I know pursue other interests
> besides their science (sports, music etc). Quite a few have children. More
> importantly, it's an accepted way of life. As you stated, a good scientist
> also needs other input than just science - any person does. 

I think part of the workaholic aspects of science in the US is
cultural:  1st, the idea that you are only working hard if you are SEEN
to be working hard, and 2nd, an entrepreneurial/individualistic 
society that explicitly admires independence, achievement, and hard 
work, and does not value community and family as such.  
Obviously I over-generalise, and I refer to  American culture overall,
not scientists who are, paradoxically, probably more community-minded
than most.  

 Also, this style of science is a reflection of the very competitive 
nature of the profession now.  Funding is tight, therefore we all want to 
be first to get the result/impressive publication/get the
grant/keep our jobs.  And, the perception that  someone
 else --a competitor-- may be willing to sacrifice everything outisde
the lab to beat us means that we feel driven to do the same 
just to keep up.  NATURE had an editorial a few months ago 
 that explicitly compared  the US system
to child labour:  "marvelously efficient, yet marvelously cruel."

By the way, I'm an American who lived abroad for several years, so I've
experienced alternatives.  But even so, I couldnt escape those years
of conditioning so I couldnt helpw working "like an American".

glad to see that women in bio is running so many active threads!


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