Science and celebrity

Some rich guys who don’t warrant mentioning just did a nice thing and gave $3 million (each!) to a handful of fantastic scientists:

Cornelia I. Bargmann
David Botstein
Lewis C. Cantley
Dr. Hans Clevers
Dr. Napoleone Ferrara
Titia de Lange
Eric S. Lander
Dr. Charles L. Sawyers
Dr. Bert Vogelstein
Robert A. Weinberg
Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

I am happy for these people who got this incredibly weirdly large windfall – I would never begrudge anyone a little good luck and recognition after a lot of hard work. However, I am generally disgusted by the celebritization of science and the kinds of incentives it creates. We have this whole generation of little douchey assholes who would rather give a TED talk than actually do something that benefits their field of inquiry. Science is the ultimate collective enterprise, and by singling out stars and heroes, the way science works is distorted and perverted. And this celebrity mindset leads to stupid, media-friendly, ego-fuelled boondoggles like this billion dollar fake brain gee-gaw in the E.U. and the recent “functional map of the human brain” nonsense in the U.S.

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6 Comments on “Science and celebrity”

  1. Dave says:

    Probably worth mentioning that this money is a prize and not a grant. This is money in their pocket. Forget about the Nobel, this just became the biggest prize in research!!! Here is the link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/science/new-3-million-prizes-awarded-to-11-in-life-sciences.html?_r=0

    For me personally it is nice to see guys like Clevers and Vogelstein because even though they are super star scientists, they are not necessarily celebrities and they are still doing really fucking solid and awesome work. But as usual the recipients are doing quite “trendy” work like stem cells, cancer, genomics etc and I’m not sure how I feel about this.

  2. DrugMonkey says:

    Vogelstein? Oooooh, that’s gotta sting in Kern-land…..

  3. Bashir says:

    Why do people think that simply by being worth more money that this is going to replace the Nobel? Do scientist in the running for the Nobel really give a damn about the check? You think people would turn down the Nobel without the money? For people who chase or fetishize the Nobel it’s most certainly not about the money.

    It’s nice to see that horse make something with his life after that horrible scandal. 🙂

  4. Dave says:

    Do scientist in the running for the Nobel really give a damn about the check?

    Errrrr, shit yeh.

  5. Bashir says:

    I don’t really buy that. I don’t mean they don’t like the money. Of course everyone likes money. But what makes the Nobel the Nobel isn’t the money per se, it’s that they have somehow cornered the prestigious science award market. Winners get tons of press coverage and for the rest of their lives are know as “Nobel prize winning…”. That’s not the money. People don’t obsess over the Nobel because of the money.

    Just because this award is more money doesn’t mean it will automatically eclipse the Nobels in prestige. I mean, the Fields medal is only 15K. That’s certainly a BIG award.

  6. DJMH says:

    I just want the last name of Clevers. I think it would help me get out of bed every morning.


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