Monday, March 09, 2009

How scientists are viewed today

Back in the 1930s, in his Revolt of the Masses, Ortega y Gasset lamented that scientists had become pariahs of the modern world. I think today this is exactly as true, if not even more. Let me first quote an e-mail received a month ago by employees at a respectful research institute in Britain:

"Subject: Institute Closure
Due to the obvious adverse weather conditions I have decided to close the Institute for today.
Staff should finish up what they are doing as soon as possible, leaving their work safe and in a position to minimise loss, particularly of experimental material. Before leaving you should consult with your line manager or next available senior manager so they are fully aware of how you have left things.
If you decide to stay at work then you should follow working procedures as they are at weekends, i.e. contacting Security to tell them that you are lone working, and not undertaking any work that is not risk assessed as suitable for a lone worker.
Staff leaving now are expected, where possible, to take some form of work home with them, especially if the worsening conditions mean it might be impossible to come into work tomorrow. This could involve catching up on paperwork, reading guidance notes or scientific literature, or catching up on those things that you don’t usually have time for. Similarly, staff already at home are also expected to do some work, even if they have nothing with them. For example, they could take this opportunity to think about PPDRs and forward job plans...
Safe journey home!"

Below I am giving the comment of the institute employee who re-sent me the e-mail, violating the rules of the institute:

"Maya, see what e-mails we receive at the archistupid (the name of the institute). I am not going now to comment the fact that the entire country is paralyzed by several centimeters of snow. I am writing because I am afraid that if I die suddenly, there will be nobody to tell future generations why the archistupid (the name of the institute) deserves this adjective! Here is an illustration of the attitude of the "high" administration to ordinary scientists. The administration takes for granted that at the first opportunity we all will abandon our experiments and leave the laboratories with satanic smiles on our faces, and only fear from punishment prevents this from happening. Moreover, we must seek permission from our superiors before abandoning our test tubes because, goodness knows, we may be too ignorant in the experimental procedures and, being cunning too, we cannot be trusted when the institute is in the danger of suffering Losses! Also, they are giving us valuable help by supplying a list of tasks on which we can work at home. It must be kept in mind that we have started our jobs with a single purpose - to cheat and enrich ourselves at the expense of the institute. So we must be prevented by any means from using the disaster in order to live a whole day at the expense of the institute. I wonder why they didn't promise to quiz us about the work done at home, after the snow melts..."

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