Monday, 28 June 2010

I am giving up science

No paper today, because I’ve had a fundamental rethink of my life and my priorities thanks to the august wisdom of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian.

I mean, I’ve spent the last seven years of my life learning all that the entire human race knows about how the brain controls the body. I’ve made the effort to learn technical skills, time management, writing, critical thinking and how to argue my case clearly and effectively based on sound empirical evidence. I have learnt to present my work in formats understandable by experts and non-experts alike (content of this blog notwithstanding; I do a much better job of it in the pub).

No longer shall I test people in robotic behavioural experiments and measure their muscle activity in an attempt to tease out the intricacies of how we perform complex actions. No longer shall I write computational modelling code that might give us a fundamental understanding of the neural activity that gives rise to these movements. And thus, no longer will I stay at my obviously hideously overpaid postdoc, worshipping at the altar of Big Science.

No longer! Thanks to Jenkins’ shining example, it is now clearly evident to me that I can not only make a decent living by spouting off seemingly randomly on things I know nothing about, but that I can do so with only a tenuous connection to the facts and a seeming obliviousness to my own inherent biases. (Of course, had I been paying more attention rather than clicking little pieces of graphs to mark onset and offset points of reaching movements for hours on end I would have realized that the existence of daytime TV hosts makes this intuitively obvious.)

No longer. I’ve decided to completely change my life from this point hence, give up the clearly pointless the intellectual rigour involved in trying to figure stuff out, and take a job in a large financial firm that will of course be entirely exempt from the pain being inflicted on the public sector by arrogant, libertarian-minded right-wing deficit-hawk idiots. Um, I mean the Government.


This article is a spoof. Any comments about Simon Jenkins that might be considered to border on the libellous totally aren’t. That’s how you do these legal disclaimers, right? Well he can sue me if he wants, I don’t own anything anyway.

Here is the article that started it all, and here is the article that inspired me to write something about it. Normal service will be resumed on Wednesday.

Also: I'm not going to make it a habit to write about politics here, but you may have gathered that I'm a bit of a lefty. Whoops, cover blown...


  1. I don't know, Jenkins makes a valid point that I am sympathetic to. Scientists need to clearly demonstrate what they are providing public for all the money they are given by the public. If they do not, or they cannot (as judged by the public, not by typically arrogant scientists) then there funding should be withdrawn. Too bad for scientists ... but there is a solution, a big sarcasm jam-session where we all look down on the commoners that 'just don't get it'.

  2. I do agree with that to a point; ultimately as scientists we are responsible to the public as we receive public money. I'm not so sure that I want it ultimately decided by 'the public' how much money scientists get though- except as far as they already do through the democratic election of politicians who decide how much of the budget to devote to research. I'm pretty sure that most grant boards have lay people on them to help decide which grants to fund as well.

    While I also take your point about the sarcasm jam-sessions, they can be a kind of fun and useful way of blowing off steam, especially in the face of sustained ignorant criticism. It's a point of contention how much scientists are responsible for communicating their work to the public, though I think that we could all stand to improve that. I don't think all the fault lies with us though.