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Awards And Recognition In Science: A Distortion Of Reality

From childhood, I harbored the ambition of becoming a physician and research scientist. I also harbored some misconceptions about my chosen career: One was that recognition comes to scientists without much effort on their part--after all, the news media frequently conveyed the notion that winners of prestigious prizes are surprised by the news of their award. Another was that prize-winning scientists are brighter and more creative than other scientists. I have long since shed these misconcepti

Robert Brent
From childhood, I harbored the ambition of becoming a physician and research scientist. I also harbored some misconceptions about my chosen career: One was that recognition comes to scientists without much effort on their part--after all, the news media frequently conveyed the notion that winners of prestigious prizes are surprised by the news of their award. Another was that prize-winning scientists are brighter and more creative than other scientists.

I have long since shed these misconceptions, but still they prevail--in the public's mind and, most dangerously, in the minds of some scientists. The misconceptions are dangerous when held by the public because they contribute to the already lamentable ignorance about science and scientists. And they are dangerous when held by researchers because the idea that the only good scientist is a famous scientist can promote a no-holds-barred quest for notoriety, which, in turn, can promote ill-motivated research and, perhaps, even...

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