科学中的“影响”幻觉

斯坦福—政府出资的科学研究涵盖了从基本生理和生物过程研究到满足迫切需要的应用开发的全部领域。由于资源有限,分配当局总是想把更高比例的资金配置给后者。而在当今预算约束吃紧的情况下,偏袒能产生可见短期回报的项目的倾向可以说比以往更加严重。但屈从于此是一个错误。一些科学中最有用的突破都来自对基础研究的持续投资或者不相关努力的副产品。

事实上,评估任何研究项目的影响是十分困难的。哈佛医学院的马克·柯什纳(Marc Kirschner)在《科学》杂志中发表了一篇思想深刻的社论,他指出,“你也许能在好科学发生时认出它,但重要的科学只能在后视镜里看到。”

甚至杰出研究者也会在做出发现时低估这些发现的重要性。我校微生物学教授萨尔瓦多·鲁里亚(Salvador Luria)是1969年诺贝尔生理学和医学奖获得者,他就调侃过这一现象。他向所有庆祝他获奖的人寄去一幅幽默漫画。漫画描绘了一对坐在早餐桌前的老夫妻。丈夫看着日报,大声说:“了不起的斯科特!我获得了诺贝尔奖!原因是我在1934年所说,所做,所想的东西!”

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