"The surest ticket to getting a grant or job is getting published in a high profile journal," says Fang. "This is an unhealthy belief that can lead a scientist to engage in sensationalism and sometimes even dishonest behavior to salvage their career."
Funding is just one aspect of a very complex problem Casadevall and Fang see growing in the biomedical sciences. In a series of editorials in the journal Infection and Immunity they describe their views in detail, arguing that science is not as healthy as it could be or as it needs to be to effectively address the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.
"Incentives in the current system place scientists under tremendous stress, discourage cooperation, encourage poor scientific practices and deter new talent from entering the field," they write. "It is time for a discussion of how the scientific enterprise can be reformed to become more effective and robust."
The answers, they write, must come not only from within the scientific community but from society as a whole that has helped create the current incentive structure that is fostering the dysfunction. In the editorials they outline a series of recommended reforms including methodological, cultural and structural changes.
"In the end, it is not the number of high-impact-factor papers, prizes or grant dollars that matters most, but the joys of discovery and the innumerable contributions both large and small that one makes through contact with other scientists," they write. "Only science can provide solutions to many of the most urgent needs of contemporary society. A conversation on how to reform science should begin now."
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology