Not long ago I received an anonymous letter from a foreign-born scientist who has been working in the United States as a postdoctoral feilow for the past two years. He claims to have worked very hard, night and day, and has, he says, performed to the standards of his fellow postdocs. But his situation was not good.

The professor in charge of the lab, he writes, abused his power and was dishonest. He is said to have routinely stolen ideas from the grant proposals of others and directed his group members to pursue those ideas immediately so he could claim priority. In addition, he prevented his postdocs from moving on to better jobs.

Of course, scientists can behave just as badly as people in any other occupation. In this case, I don’t know whether my anonymous correspondent described the situation accurately or whether his outlook might have been colored by...

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