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Is teamwork overrated in science?

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Further to “Higgs boson discoverer wouldn’t get job today?” (his own assessment), here’s an interesting piece on teamwork, focusing in large part on scientists and teamwork:

The engineers lamented the lack of individualism in their profession and the doctors seemed annoyed by teamwork, but the scientists I spoke to about it were downright pissed. “Scientists are lemmings.” one biochemist told me. “They’re teamwork at its worst. They’re a mob.” He went on to tell me that his day consists of trying out ridiculous hypothesis after ridiculous hypothesis and when he’s finally successful, his peers viciously attack his findings trying to find a hole. When the data proves him right, everyone jumps onboard and wants to be part of the findings.

He told me when you hear of scientific teams working on a project, it’s usually one leader and several glorified employees. …

What about Watson and Crick?

“That’s a myth,” one chemist explained. “Crick made those discoveries on his own. He was frustrated because not only were his peers dubious of his theory. They couldn’t even understand it. Watson was going through the same problem. When they met each other the attitude was, ‘Finally, someone as crazy as me.’” They were rewarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine together in 1962.

Does this sound on the money?

Note: Some politically incorrect stuff if you read the whole thing, so read at your own risk.

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3 Responses to Is teamwork overrated in science?

  1. I am reminded of the following quote by computer pioneer Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

    Even Watson and Crick had problems working as a team. Crick was dead set on looking for triple or even quadruple structures. Watson insisted that the persistent finding of “twoness” in nature meant that they should be looking for a double structure. Watson was right. The rest is history.

    It takes more than vision to be a good scientist. You have to be ready and willing to throw punches and kick butts.

  2. Most of today’s science can’t be done by a single scientist. LHC would not have been possible without team work of scientists, engineers and Governments of different countries. There is no problem for a theoretical physicists or other scientists who are not bothered about experiments, but when it comes to most experimental science, the type of expertise and instruments required is not easily accessible to a single scientist. Today’s science is multidisciplinary. No single scientists has expertise in all required fields.
    Like all team work, there will be problems with personnel but that can’t be avoided.

  3. The Aiken quote by mapou was funny and I think actually true enough.
    AMEN to all of this. It confirms that intelligence is not that easy.
    Teamwork implies a equal intelectual ability between the team members. yet any progressive thing could onl;y have come from a single person unless others independently elsewhere.
    Teamwork is a denial of the biblical ideas of Wisdom, understanding, Knowledge.
    Its just a few guys and the others helping them. it was just Edison and not his team to any great extent.
    indeed when i read about inventions they always stress not much has been added since the original idea.
    This is why evolution sticks around,. Its still just Darwins error. the rest just repeat it .
    Innovation requires another spark of insight and teams don’t get that. its from a single person. It could only be.
    Getting in the way of such people stops progress.
    TEAMWORKISM is a rejection of intellectual superiority .
    So investigation will find teamwork doesn’t contribute but only helps or hinders the guy with the insight.

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