From a Shot Against Cell/Nature/Science to Generational Warfare

From a Shot Against Cell/Nature/Science to Generational Warfare

On Sunday, 28 June 1914, Austrian prince Franz Ferdinand was traveling with his wife in Sarajevo, a volatile peripheral part of their empire, when an anarchist group assassinated them. Their death exposed decades of enmity collecting below the surface in Europe and resulted in 30 years of the most brutal warfare, not seen since the times of Eighty Years’ War( Dutch War of Independence).

We know that a lot of enmity has been collecting below the apparently peaceful surface of academic world of USA and UK. We also recognized a shot being fired by Randy Schekman against Cell, Nature and Science.

How Journals like Nature, Cell and Science are Damaging Science

We all know what distorting incentives have done to finance and banking. The incentives my colleagues face are not huge bonuses, but the professional rewards that accompany publication in prestigious journals chiefly Nature, Cell and Science.

These luxury journals are supposed to be the epitome of quality, publishing only the best research. Because funding and appointment panels often use place of publication as a proxy for quality of science, appearing in these titles often leads to grants and professorships. But the big journals’ reputations are only partly warranted. While they publish many outstanding papers, they do not publish only outstanding papers. Neither are they the only publishers of outstanding research.

These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept. The exclusive brands are then marketed with a gimmick called “impact factor” a score for each journal, measuring the number of times its papers are cited by subsequent research. Better papers, the theory goes, are cited more often, so better journals boast higher scores. Yet it is a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself and is as damaging to science as the bonus culture is to banking.

Will it lead to generational warfare between the boomers and their children? Some of the initial reactions suggest so. BioMickWatson, who writes a widely read blog on bioinformatics, commented -

I think you might be a hypocrite

I wrote a blog post recently called We didnt ask for it, and in case you missed the subtle nuance (!) of the post, what I was trying to say is that if youre an established scientist, a tenured professor with hundreds of peer- reviewed papers behind you, and especially if youre a man, you dont get to tell people like me that the system is broken, because youre the one who broke it!!!

Bear in mind that Randy is already part of the generation who burned all the fossil fuels, created the hole in the ozone layer, oversaw the destruction of rain forests and the loss of countless species, overfished the seas, sent countless pieces of junk into space, wrecked the global economy and got rich off the housing market, then (mostly) retired in their 50s, and you might begin to understand a simmering anger in the younger generation(s) when people who in powerful positions tell us that things are broken and need to be fixed.

Heres the thing the younger generation are going to fix things, because we have to, and you dont get to take any of the *!&%-ing credit Randy!

Given that academia is a microcosm of the greater society, we expect similar generational warfare to play out in many other places of the Anglo-Saxon society.

Generational Dynamics blog has been covering this social progression for many years, and we would encourage readers to take a look at their analysis. It follows the theory of Strauss and Howe. Our forecasts are slightly different from what he expects. We expect -

i) Most boomers to lose their pensions. Greece is an early indicator of what to expect.

ii) University endowment funds, non-profit funds, etc. to follow the way of church property during French revolution.

iii) ‘Nationalism’ followed by civil war within USA.

Written by M. //