This week three excellent articles have been brought my attention that highlight current problems with science and academia. The first two are in the Guardian newspaper.
How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science
The incentives offered by top journals distort science, just as big bonuses distort banking
Randy Schekman, a winner of the 2013 Nobel prize for medicine.
Peter Higgs: I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system
Physicist doubts work like Higgs boson identification achievable now as academics are expected to 'keep churning out papers'
How academia resembles a drug gang is a blog post by Alexandre Afonso, a lecturer in Political Economy at Kings College London. He takes off from the fascinating chapter in Freakanomics, "Why drug dealers still live with their moms." It is because they all hope they are going to make the big time and eventually become head of the drug gang. Academia has a similar hierarchical structure with a select few tenured and well-funded faculty who lead large "gangs" of Ph.D students, postdocs, and "adjunct" faculty. They soldier on in the slim hope that one day they will make the big time... just like the gang leader.
The main idea here is highlighting some of the personal injustices of the current system. That is worth a separate post. What does this have to do with good/bad science? This situation is a result of the problems highlighted in the two Guardian articles. In particular, many of these "gangs" are poorly supervised and produce low quality science. This is due to the emphasis on quantity and marketability, rather than quality and reproducibility.