A Career Is Finished Before It Starts

Science is like a professional sport. Both are played by young people and managed by older people no longer capable of playing. In sport the inability of older people to play is so obvious that they do not expect or try to do so. Someone entering pro sports knows that his or her high-paying career will be short. A few will stay on as managers or lower-status, non-playing auxiliaries, but most will leave the sport entirely. Scientists are now being involuntarily retired at about the same age as

Charles Mccutchen
May 12, 1996

Science is like a professional sport. Both are played by young people and managed by older people no longer capable of playing. In sport the inability of older people to play is so obvious that they do not expect or try to do so. Someone entering pro sports knows that his or her high-paying career will be short. A few will stay on as managers or lower-status, non-playing auxiliaries, but most will leave the sport entirely.

Scientists are now being involuntarily retired at about the same age as athletes, which is about the age when the fall in their creative powers gets serious. Their departure is little if any loss to science, but they entered science with the expectation of lifetime careers and feel betrayed. The generation before them had lifetime careers; why shouldn't they?

They were told, or allowed to believe, a lie, that grad student and postdoc years...

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