I am a scientist. Mine is a professional world that achieves great things for humanity. But it is disfigured by inappropriate incentives. The prevailing structures of personal reputation and career advancement mean the biggest rewards often follow the flashiest work, not the best. Those of us who follow these incentives are being entirely rational – I have followed them myself – but we do not always best serve our profession's interests, let alone those of humanity and society.It should be interesting to see if the science fetishists who attack me for being "anti-science" when I point out the many problems with the science industry will do the same to this Nobel prize-winner.
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....
It is the quality of the science, not the journal's brand, that matters. Most importantly of all, we scientists need to take action. Like many successful researchers, I have published in the big brands, including the papers that won me the Nobel prize for medicine, which I will be honoured to collect tomorrow.. But no longer. I have now committed my lab to avoiding luxury journals, and I encourage others to do likewise.
This is one aspect of the problems I have been pointing out. One doesn't have to know ANYTHING about science to know that the incentive system will lead to major problems, one only has to know about the existence of the incentives and been in contact with the occasional human being.