There was a very sharp change in the nature of a research career. The "promising" young scientists publication rate grew by factors of five to ten; the number of applications a young researcher might make for post-doctoral work or an entry-level position rose from two or three to 50. Senior scientists were overwhelmed with receiving and sending reams of letters of recommendation, which thereupon became meaningless. The numbers of meetings .. grew by factors of ten or more... Most publications became tactical in this game of jockeying one's way to the top; publications in certain prestige journals were seen as essential entry tickets or score counters rather than as serious means of communication. Great numbers of these publications were about simulations of dubious realism or relevance. Essentially, in the early part of the post-war period the career was science-driven, motivated mostly by absorption with the great enterprise of discovery, and by genuine curiosity as to how nature operates. But the last decade of the century far too many, especially of the young people, were seeing science as a competitive interpersonal game, in which the winner was not the one who was objectively right as the the nature of scientific reality but the one who was successful at getting grants, publishing in PRL, and being noticed in the news pages of Nature, Science, or Physics Today.More and Different, page 100.
I consider this is a painfully accurate description of the current reality. It is amazing to see how few papers [one or two per year] the leaders published back in the 50s and 60s.
Is there anyway out of this undesirable situation? We can't turn back the clock. However, we can all [both junior and senior scientists] exercise some critical judgement and self control and not be completely conformed to the system and our colleagues.
Keep the science at the forefront of our minds and pre-occupations, don't jump on the latest band-wagon or become obsessed with the latest "metric" of productivity.
Photo is Anderson and Richards looking at apparatus for experiments on superfluid 4He at Bell labs (in the 1960s) taken from the AIP archives.