On science, super-star scientists, fraud, and financing

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Recently, several scientific frauds have been exposed and reported in social and conventional media. While it is positive that we, or some of us, are carefully checking each other’s work, such immoral and unethical acts strongly damage the reputation of scientists as a whole. Only few other jobs are so dependent of public (financial) support and overall social acceptance. Therefore, we cannot afford to be portrayed as dishonest and immoral.

I wonder though whether everything is being done upstream of scientific malpractice in order to discourage unethical behaviours. Currently, granting agencies, and (scientific) society as a whole, favour the idolatry of the individual – the super-star scientist. At the same time, it is generally acknowledged that scientific output is the result of team effort and that collaborations are of utmost importance.

Nevertheless, the system encourages one, especially young scientists, to present him or herself as a “future leader in the field” and to adopt egocentric attitudes that could overlap with sociopathic behaviours. Sooner than later, everyday challenges (which constitute 99% of a scientist’s life) are easily perceived by the scientist and peers as personal failures. I think a lot of this is at the basis of the unjustifiable misconducts that are perpetrated by few scientists in order to achieve “success”.

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