Poem of the Day: #7

Aug 11 2009 Published by under Terrible Poetry

I. the lab's dismal air
mourning your unborn paper
alas, you've been scooped
II. lab mates crowd around
printed copies fly like birds
try to find a flaw
III. your data can't die
publish you must, or perish
find a new angle

One response so far

  • Hi Scicurious,
    Thank you for this ‘terrible poetry.’ It points to the you-snooze-you-lose kind of competition that is peculiar to science today. I directed and produced the documentary film, "Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist" which portrays life in a Columbia University molecular biology lab, following the lab head and several graduate students for over three years. The graduate students in the film feel under pressure to publish first and beat the competition. “Do I feel intense competition? Yeah, I do. My professor keeps telling me to solve this structure. I keep telling him: Well, we’re gonna get scooped,” says one student.
    In a recent discussion following the film’s screening at the New York Academy of Science, Nobel laureate James Watson noted that when he was a young scientist, so few were engaged in his problem that he always knew the competition. His biggest worry was solving the problem, not getting scooped. The problems are much harder today, according to Dr. Watson. People face unknown and intense competition. “Now there are 500 students in Beijing solving crystal structures." Surely, the poem you post is a sign of how much has changed in science over the past 50 years and how much more competitive it has become. For more information about the film, I invite to you to take a look at naturallyobsessed.com

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