Thursday, December 3, 2009

Race for the Double Helix Q3

Watson and Crick, after their discovery of DNA structure, received numerous awards and accolades, including the Nobel Prize. As a woman scientist in a man’s world, Rosalind Franklin was for many years, forgotten.

What should the primary goal of a scientist be – being the first to make an important discovery or sharing your results and contributing so that an important discovery can be made as soon as possible, even if you receive no credit for your contribution?


  1. It is definitely more important to contribute to a discovery then to acutally discover it yourself. If what everyone goes after is fame, then where would all the actual results that made up the discovery come from? Without the results, it is practically impossible to come up with a discovery. Thus, it is much more important to contribute with facts then it is to finalize a discovery.

  2. Well, it was a f**d up world. Rosalind didn't go nearly as far as she could have because she was trying to operate traditionally in a traditional setting that openly discriminated against women. That led her to feel that she had to prove something, therefore she kept her results private. This led to her scientific and physical demise (we also didn't know too much about radiation back then). Watson/Crick used her work to compliment theirs (vice versa if you feel that way), took french lessons, got rich. This seems like a better way to make a discovery than killing yourself performing your own work in your own way. There's no room for outside contribution that way. I guess credit is overrated because we should be seeing how far WE can go and not how far each of us can go. We as humans have beat natural selection in terms of survival; now it's time for us to spread our collectives ideas to make something wonderful. It's a shame Rose didn't get her credit til now.

  3. There is no doubt that it is more important to share your results and contribute your information so that an important discovery can be made. That is why Watson and Crick (or at least the Watson and Crick that are portrayed in the film) are so utterly infuriating. Not only were they ignorant of the depth of much of the information that they used, but they also treated the discovery of DNA like a competition, instead of a great advancement in human knowledge. If science is a game, then Watson and Crick cheated. Rosalind worked so hard, and she did not work for fame, but for the discovery of knowledge, and for the solution to a mystery. Watson and Crick only wanted the make a name for themselves. If people value fame more than the expansion of knowledge, then the great scientific community that we know today (where cooperation and sharing are key ideals) cannot exist. Although credit should not have been the motivating factor behind the discovery of DNA, I feel that if anyone deserves credit, it is Rosalind Franklin, who endured a sexist scientific society and still managed to make key discoveries about DNA.

  4. Science is a collective institution in which scientists share and build on each other's observations. As a scientist, the primary goal should be to further science, whether that means making huge intellectual leaps, or through meticulous hard research. This question also implies that watson and crick only wanted to make a name for themselves, which is not true. While they did want to be the ones to discover the structure of DNA and put pressure on themselves to be the first ones at the finish line, they still worked for a scientific goal of furthering human understanding. Also, the question implies that Rosalind Franklin received NO credit for her work, which is not the case. While she was a large part in discovering the structure of DNA, she was not the only factor, and Watson and Cricks came up with plenty of the contributions to the theory themselves.

  5. The movie expresses clearly, and I agree, that it is far more important to make a scientific discovery first and receive credit for your finding than to share information with a group of scientists and receive no credit at all. One of the head scientists put it perfectly when he says, "to an outsider science may seem communal. But to us, it is... terratorial."

    In the male dominated world we live in, driven by competition and curiousity, and not by care for detail and respect for others, there is no room for a scientist like Rosalind Franklin. Her decision to "take the scenic route" on the path to discovering the structure of DNA, although gallant, was clearly the wrong strategy. She took to long that others were able to steal her data from her and use it for their own purposes. The world continued on without her and she was left for many years without recognition.

    A lack of competition for recognition, stemming from a style of communal science, would remove and element of the scientific process of discovery. Although many scientists enjoy science merely for its mystique, many, such as Watson and Crick, relied on the race-like element to do their work. If researchers pooled their data and all worked as a team science would lose some of its finest and most competitive minds.

  6. Contributing so that a major discovery is much more important than being the first to make a discovery. All of science builds off others ideas and theories and if scientist were to only seek fame and credit, there would be very little progress. While Franklin’s situation was unfair, there is a lot of work that goes in to every discovery and even when credit is given to people, there are more people who worked on it that aren’t given credit. Holding your ideas to yourself is just selfish and it does not help make any progress in scientific discoveries. While competition is what drives many people to push themselves further and learn more, it should not be the most important thing.

  7. A scientist's goal should be to contribute to the larger body of scientific work. It does not matter if one is the first to make a discovery, but that the discovery was made by someone, at some point. But it can be argued that the excitement gained from pursuing personal glory drives so many people to make a great discovery. If science is viewed as completely impersonal and communal, as it would in an ideal world, than people might not have motivation to work as hard as they could. The pursuit of persona recognition is good when it drives scientist to work as hard as they can but can become threatening to scientific progress when it limits the flow of information. Science as a body loses nothing by the pooling of information, but the individuals may lose some of their drive that leads to so many great discoveries. Personal glory, no matter the scientific "greed" it causes mo0tivates people and creates a positive competitive environment.

    I do believe that Rosiland Franklin should have received more recognition for her work. She did fantastic lab work without which, Watson and Crick scold not have made their discovery. Sexism contributed to this lack of recognition. She was another mechanism in the machine that produced the discovery of the structure of DNA

  8. No scientist should EVER go into an experiment with the mentality that they will be accoladed if they discover something revelatory. The point of the scientific community is to share, compare and test their results alongside others' in order to approach a solution. Take Norman Borlaug, for instance. You may not have heard his name, but he is credited with saving 1 BILLION lives. He invented a hardy strain of wheat that could grow in eroded soil and survive long periods of drought. In the 1950's he road-tested his strains of wheat in Texcoco, Mexico with native farmers to support him and a small scientific team under sponsorship from the Rockefeller foundation. The goal of the project was simply to boost wheat production in Mexico, yet by the end Borlaug and his team had cross-breeded a high-yield, drought-resistand semi-dwarf strain of wheat that was introduced to southeast Asia, India, and Africa by the end of the 60's. In 1970, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the world's food supply, all because of the original goal of increasing wheat production in Mexico.

    Like Borlaug, all scientists should strive to work together to achieve a common discovery rather than seek personal awards.

  9. In an ideal world, science would be a shared thing, scientists standing on the shoulders of each other as Newton stood on the shoulders of those who came before him, like Galileo and other great thinkers.

    Also, in an ideal world, we would all ride unicorns and fart rainbows.

    It is great to preach of things like communal research and knowledge. But as any governmental theorist will tell you, putting the whole before the self tends not to work very well. If you'll look at the very structure of the US government, you'll see that the founding fathers designed it so that each branch would, while working for more power for itself, check the others. Even in modern politics, this is the ways we see bills pass, the backroom dealings of DC. If a senator wants health care reform, he has to concede to his opponents some tax cut that they wish passed. From this, we learn an important lesson.

    Nobody, not even those who profess to a government "for the people, by the people" think of the greater good for everyone. They only think of the good for their section of everyone, and the good they are willing to let everyone else have. And thus progress is made. In this we see the innate selfishness of man.

    So why should science be any different? Personal benefit is a greater motivator than something that helps everyone. Look at Watson. He sees DNA as a buried treasure, some rainbow which he can follow to find gold. He doesn't see it as some mystery to be solved communally, despite his talks of "pooling resources" with Dr. Franklin. What he is after is prestige. What motivates him is fame. And sure, some French girl, in awe of his brilliant scientific mind, would be nice, too.

    While it is nice to believe that furthering scientific understanding should be the goal of science, that is too idealistic a belief. While many go into science so that new discoveries can be made, just as many go into science so that THEY can make new discoveries! We even have a cash prize for finding the best one!

    In truth, if all papers were submitted anonymously and all discoveries credited to "scientists everywhere" a lot more people would be lawyers.

  10. Science should definitely not be a race. Scientists should share and compare their work so that an important discovery can be made instead of working to be the first to make the important discovery. Watson and Crick should not have been awarded so highly for thier discovery of the double-helix especially considering Rosalind Franklin wasn't given much credit.