You might have, by now, seen that obnoxious article by Scott Kern bemoaning the sorry state of the cancer research facility at which he works. Apparently, the building is nearly empty on weekends, so people aren’t working hard enough, and thereby killing cancer patients. Rebecca sums up the tone of the article:
There have been a few responses (updated: Janet has one also) to this chuckleheaded essay by Scott Kern (pdf) chiding, well, basically anyone who isn’t in the lab 60+ hours every week about how they lack passion about their research, and are essentially letting sick people die because they think they have the “right” to lives outside of the lab.
Nowhere here does Kern consider the option of hiring more researchers to work 40 hour weeks, instead of shaming the existing research workforce into spending 60, 80, 100 hours a week in the lab.
This is why you keep professional philosophers around–the good ones cut right to the heart of the matter. Kern wants all researchers to have their research as their number one priority (even as he spends his weekends checking up on his colleagues, as opposed to curing cancer. Just saying). One problem with the ‘pedal faster’ school is that it’s unprofessional. That lack of professionalism leads to poor time (and resource) management.
The other issue is if we don’t have a place for people who are not mono-maniacally focused on their research, we will lose a lot of very smart people who do good work. What if people have more than one passion? Suppose they are active in their communities, and fight cancer. Is that a bad thing?
Many people have jobs that ‘matter’, not just cancer researchers (An aside: Kern’s narcissism is breathtaking). Rather than using their brains, their talents, their energies for personal enrichment, they have decided to do something that makes a difference. But they do their job and then get on with the rest of their lives. They view what they do as a job–an important one that they’re proud to do–but not as a calling that consumes them. Yet the important work in all of these areas–including Kern’s well-funded cancer center–still gets done.
So do you view science as a job, one you like and are proud to do, or as an all-consuming calling?