Human Genome Project: Is `Big Science' Bad For Biology?

In the physical sciences, there seems to be little if any disagreement over what constitutes big science. Few physicists, for example, would disagree that the Superconducting Supercollider and the space station Freedom are both big science projects--that is, they both involve many scientists clustered at a single facility as opposed to individual researchers or small groups working independently in labs around the country. In the life sciences, however, consensus on this issue is rare. Biomedi

Julia King
Nov 11, 1990
In the physical sciences, there seems to be little if any disagreement over what constitutes big science. Few physicists, for example, would disagree that the Superconducting Supercollider and the space station Freedom are both big science projects--that is, they both involve many scientists clustered at a single facility as opposed to individual researchers or small groups working independently in labs around the country.

In the life sciences, however, consensus on this issue is rare. Biomedical researchers have yet to reach a majority opinion on whether the human genome project (HGP) should or should not be classified as a big science project. Moreover, some life scientists object to the very concept of big and small biology projects. As University of Utah biochemist Martin Rechsteiner wrote in a letter to FASEB Journal (4:2941-2, 1990), "The words conjure up big leagues versus little leagues, serious versus trivial, important versus unimportant."

Yet interestingly enough,...

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