A good test is to ask young researchers: “What if money was no object?”. In fact, if there were no worries about their careers and hence about money, most wouldn't work on the topics they are currently working on.
The problem is that there is simply no funding for any kind of research that is too far away from the mainstream, where it is unclear what the results, if any, in 2 or even 5 years will be.
The mechanisms we have constructed to ensure fairness and quality have the unintended side effect of putting people of unusual creativity and independence at a disadvantage.
- Those who follow large well-sup- ported research programs have lots of powerful senior scientists to promote their careers. Those who invent their own research programs usually lack such support and hence are often undervalued and underappreciated.
- People with the uncanny ability to ask new questions or recognize unexamined assumptions, or who are able to take ideas from one field and apply them to another, are often at a disadvantage when the goal is to hire the best person in a given well-established area.
- In the present system, scientists feel lots of pressure to follow established research programs led by powerful senior scientists. Those who choose to follow their own programs understand that their career prospects will be harmed. That there are still those with the courage to go their own way is underappreciated.
- It is easy to write many papers when you continue to apply well- understood techniques. People who develop their own ideas have to work harder for each result, because they are simultaneously developing new ideas and the techniques to explore them. Hence they often publish fewer papers, and their papers are cited less frequently than those that contribute to something hundreds of people are doing. To give the advantage to people who are unusually creative and independent, we should change the measures we use to judge quality and promise.
Why no new Einstein? by Lee Smolin