EDITORIAL

Empowering Young Scientists

Science  02 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5974, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185745

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Summary

The Vancouver Olympics reveal stark differences between the worlds of sports and science. In both, young people from around the world try to surpass all previous accomplishments in pursuit of world records or scientific discoveries. Selected entirely on merit, athletes receive honor just for participating in the games, spurring the next generation of young people in each nation to excel. And as star athletes age, they often support their sport in other ways, serving as advocates, mentors, or coaches. In contrast, in too many nations, the selection and promotion processes in science involve considerations other than merit. Senior scientists receive most of the resources available for scientific research, and young scientists rarely receive societal recognition for their work. This situation is growing worse as life expectancies and retirement ages increase, along with the average age for attaining scientific independence.* Perhaps as one consequence, science is typically not a top career choice. How many exceptional scientists around the world thereby go unrecognized, their talents allowed to wither away untapped? In an attempt to reverse such trends, a nascent “young national academies” movement has begun across the globe, and a new international group has recently been established to promote this cause.

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