We have to play each other better

k2nytt_2017_uke-10_leder_portrett_raederThe soccer team Rosenborg’s famous coach Nils Arne Eggen launched in his time the “Good Foot-Theory”. According to his theory we must “play each other better.” Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser subsequently repeated his point in a research context. Unfortunately, it seems that the culture within the more competitive levels of academia goes in the opposite direction, at least if we are to believe a recent article in The Guardian. In this article, immunologist Lemaitre shares his reflections after his mentor Jules Hoffman received the Nobel Prize in 2011 for a discovery Lemaitre himself claims he was behind. He writes that “Reaching the top of the scientific hierarchy increasingly depends on a glittering media profile, publishing in “trophy journals” and cultivating a network of academic frenemies who are treated as close allies until they become obstacles in the path to academic glory”. He further writes that this narcissistic behaviour could eventually affect the objectivity of scientific research. He concludes by saying that “When you do a collective project with a narcissist at the end he has the feeling that he has done everything.” Such a culture is totally unacceptable and should be discouraged. One way to counter such a culture is to reward seniors who promotes their juniors’ career, for example by organizing their research activities so that their junior researcher develop independence and get their rightful last authorships without creating conflicts of interest. Today´s system credit the senior scientists for the numbers of doctoral students receiving their PhD. I hope we could also credit senior researchers´ ability to lift juniors to leading positions, both within and outside academia. To this end, the senior scientists would need to pass on some niches of their own research field and some potential last authorships to their junior group members. In return, the career progression for former junior group members should stand out in the senior´s CV, both at salary discussions, in applications for UiB scholarships and post-doctoral positions and in research applications. As it says in the Holy Bible, “for whatever one sows, that will he also reap”.


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