Opinion: ‘Big science’, big hype, big mistake

Opinion: ‘Big science’, big hype, big mistake

Bill Amos

A thoughtful opinion piece by Bill Amos was published on UK’s Times Higher Education.

Not long ago, the Nobel prizewinning scientist James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, made a wry comment in a seminar. It went something like this: If you are not in a big research group, think about packing your bags to leave science. It is a view that is reinforced by the governments plans to sequence 100,000 human genomes, but clashes with a recent Radio 4 discussion on Start the Week that pointed out how the promises used to sell big science are, by and large, pie in the sky.

For genome sequencing, the gold at the end of the rainbow usually involves cures for cancer, used to justify the first genome sequence, the 1,000 Genomes project and now 100,000 more. These promises were made before and will no doubt be made again, apparently without even a backward glance at whether they were fulfilled.

As a geneticist, I should surely welcome such projects, but I do not.

The sentiment echoes many of our earlier commentaries, and we are happy to find out that other researchers are finally starting to see the big cancer funding projects as cancer on productive science. In retrospect, it is quite unbelievable that the biologists manages to play ‘give us money and we will cure cancer in 5 years’ con game for nearly 45 years with increasing success !!

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Written by M. //