Watson out of touch

James Watson has a curious status in biology today. It would be impossible to find a scientist who would fail to acknowledge his accomplishments. At the same time, he is well known for making comments that would crush the reputation of other men.

This sentence in his recent NYT op-ed stuck out at me:

Hardly anyone I know works on Sunday or even much on Saturday, as almost no one believes that his or her current work will soon lead to a big cure.

Please! This sentence indicates that Watson hardly knows anyone who does the real physical work in the lab. Even though I don’t pipet all weekend anymore these days, I’m sure that plenty of graduate students and postdocs across the United States will be doing just that this weekend. All the evidence I get is that biomedical research is even more grueling and competitive now compared with a decade ago.

Let us keep in mind that Watson’s notorious book Double Helix describes science as a “clawing climb up a slippery slope, impeded by the authority of fools, to be made with cadged data…,with malice toward most and charity toward none.”


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