Director's Message (2010-2012)
The practice of science is about thinking, doing and communicating. All too often, individuals and institutions fail at the very first step. The smoke and mirrors of perceived demands and peer pressure on what we should do with our research is not conducive to calm, interactive thinking in choosing our research directions. Individuals and institutions choose problems tailored to attract resources rather than to convince researchers that their problems are worth funding. The second step, is the doing of science upon being clear on what we want to do. While resources and facilities are indeed vital, here too its the mind rather than matter that hamstrings many a good idea from moving to fruition. While there is always much room for individual brilliance and the consequent successes of small groups, many aspects of our science today are better done by interactions and collaborations. The skewed peer-group pressure in the life sciences is a ballast against scientific curiosity and the spirit of inquiry driving science: concerns such as how credit will be apportioned to authors in a collaboration often prevent the start of interactions. Thus, while collaborations can often serve better science, the career path for those who chronically do so can appear to be fraught. Finally, in communicating our work, the sometimes crudely stated importance given to where a manuscript is published rather than what it contains can become the tail that wags the dog of science.
If there is one general success that NCBS can be proud of, in addition to building a robust foundation of scientific excellence, it is its demonstration that it is possible in today’s environment - at the individual and institutional level - to focus on quality thinking, doing and communicating and not be distracted by the real and imaginary external pressures I have outlined above. You will see the results of this refreshing attitude in this, our first ‘slim’ report: A range of science that comes from our scientists choosing anything but the boring to work on. In doing their work, they benefit in a range of ways from interactions and collaborations of all kinds, all of which have only enhanced everyone’s intellectual standing. Finally, in communicating our work, this curiosity driven science has resulted in wonderful publications of depth and value. Looking back on our 20 years, this report will give you a glimpse of the quality of science from our young median- cohort, our many very new colleagues and our tail of vigorous near 20-year residents. Lest this sound too self-congratulatory, our readers should be assured that we wake up each day and worry about the sky falling on our head: while we like to communicate our successes, we are wary of being dulled by even legitimate propaganda