We Need More Science

In an article on Slate, Derek Lowe argues that [“We Don’t Need More Scientists—We Need Better Ones”][dl]. His provocative statement is in response to the current efforts to get more students to major in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (aka STEM). His logic, based on his years as a chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, is that much of the grunt work that was formerly the purview of the middle and lower tiers of scientists here in the U.S.A. has been offloaded to India and China (and, one supposes, to various information technologies). There just isn’t that much work out there, he notes, and so what we need is not more scientists, but better ones, one who fit better into, as he describes it, “a high-wage country like the United States.”

In reality, Lowe ends up backtracking by the end of the essay, noting that he finds it “painful to think about children, all over the world, who might grow into great discoverers but will never have their chance. How many Ramanujans have spent their lives looking at the back of a water buffalo rather than flying through the higher reaches of mathematics? What have the rest of us missed out on as a result?” Such a sentiment flies in the face of “more better, less mediocre,” especially if you are pursuing a market logic, as Lowe seems to be doing.

In fact, to get better scientists, you need more of them. And what that means is that we need more science.

[dl]: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/06/scientist_shortage_is_a_myth_.html