Miscellany

Reflections on a mature discipline

Now we live in a technological age, computers of unprecedented capacity and speed, and almost instantaneous communication with colleagues anywhere in the world. But I have a question: When do we have time to think? One can only applaud the improved efficiency of modern equipment, but the frenetic pace of so much research today results in undue stress that can be detrimental in human terms. In a recent book on the genetic basis of cancer, I came across an extreme example of research under pressure. The author cites the case of a crash effort involving 24 hour days by one group to beat a competing group to a deadline. Such an extreme course of action seems to me unworthy of science and has led to some questionable ethics. A saying I encountered years ago suggests a useful response to a competitive situation: 'Compete with your possibilities and not with your neighbor'.

Lyle H. Jensen’s Buerger Award address, July 24, 2000