For some reason, I guess narcissism was on people’s minds last Friday. Hannah Devlin had a story in the Guardian about a lecture given by immunologist Bruno Lemaitre about the crisis of narcissism in science.
“Many great scientists are narcissists. It’s a bit sad, but it’s a fact,” he said. “This might surprise an external observer, because scientists are usually perceived as being modest searchers for the truth and working collectively for the advancement of science.”
Lemaitre is not suggesting his profession is unique in having experienced a rise in individualism – politics, film or fashion are probably worse and the trend is global, he says, but it has some worrying implications that are specific to science.
“The influence of narcissism on so many aspects of science calls into question [its] very objectivity,” he said.
The replication crisis in psychology and the life sciences, in which “sexy” papers fail to stand up to closer scrutiny, can be blamed in part on scientists being motivated by a need for attention and authority as well as curiosity about the natural world, he said.
This sounds right to me.