Free Essays: Destructive Competition Exposed in Cantor's Dilemma
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Destructive Competition Exposed in Cantor's Dilemma
Competition is often useful as a means of motivation. However, in the scientific world, competition has the potential to cause many scientists to forget their main purpose in research. The main goal of scientific research is to develop knowledge that will better society. When scientists work together to help each other reach a common goal, science is working as it should.
However, with so much competition to be the best scientist, make the most money, and possibly win the Nobel Prize, it is difficult for scientists to share ideas. Many scientists are very secretive. Carl Djerassi, a world famous scientist, describes this competition in his fictional novel, Cantor's Dilemma. In his novel, he demonstrates the secrecy that competition encourages when two scientists, Cantor and Stafford, complete an important experiment. Cantor does not want to publish the full experimental details right away. He explains, "No, I'd like to string this out a bit. Just a preliminary communication first, without the experimental details, so that nobody can jump on the bandwagon right away."
Scientists are very concerned with the idea that another scientist may get hold of their work and claim it as his or her own. In Cantor's Dilemma, Cantor decides to which journal he will send his manuscript based on his prior knowledge of referees. Referees review the experiment and pass it along to other scientists for verification of the results. He did not want an American referee to leak the news. Therefore, he sent the manuscript to London where an American referee would not have the opportunity to see the article.
Many scientists adopt other people's ideas as their own. Surprisingly, this often happens unintentionally. Djerassi describes grant requests in Cantor's Dilemma. When a grant request is sent in, most of the people on the review board are the scientist's competition. Since they are dealing with ideas and not completed work, the review board has the opportunity to steal ideas. Cantor describes that, "[Members of the review board] can't help but remember what [they] read, and after a while, say a few months or even weeks later, [they] forget where [they] first saw it and gradually [they] think it's their own idea." For this reason, most scientists do not give many details when they are applying for a grant.
Competition also can influence a scientist into producing fraudulent results.