Mark Buchanan, quoting Lee Smolin, on how big science may be biased against innovative iconoclasts:
Some scientists, he suggests, are what we might call “hill climbers”. They tend to be highly skilled in technical terms and their work mostly takes established lines of insight that pushes them further; they climb upward into the hills in some abstract space of scientific fitness, always taking small steps to improve the agreement of theory and observation. These scientists do “normal” science. In contrast, other scientists are more radical and adventurous in spirit, and they can be seen as “valley crossers”. They may be less skilled technically, but they tend to have strong scientific intuition — the ability to spot hidden assumptions and to look at familiar topics in totally new ways.
To be most effective, Smolin argues, science needs a mix of hill climbers and valley crossers. Too many hill climbers doing normal science, and you end up sooner or later with lots of them stuck on the tops of local hills, each defending their own territory. Science then suffers from a lack of enough valley crossers able to strike out from those intellectually tidy positions to explore further away and find higher peaks.
“This is the situation I believe we are in,” says Smolin, “and we are in it because science has become professionalized in a way that takes the characteristics of a good hill climber as representative of what is a good, or promising, scientist. The valley crossers we need have been excluded or pushed to the margins.”
Read more here.