Monday, November 21, 2016

Science = Show Business - Cocaine

The title may be a slight exaggeration. But there are some interesting parallels between how scientists and screenwriters make a living.

Scientists write white papers. Screenwriters write spec scripts.

Scientific funding agencies release "requests for proposals". Movie studios release "open assignments."

Scientists respond with proposals. Screenwriters respond with scripts.

Scientists use grant writers to help sharpen up a proposal. Screenwriters use script doctors to sharpen up a script.

Scientists write articles that, if they pass peer review, are published in journals. Screenplays and scripts are "green-lighted" for production.

Engineers and entrepreneurs turn scientists' ideas into goods and services. Producers and studios turn scripts into movies and TV shows.

Some scientists are satisfied to do good research that gets cited a lot, but others hunger for the recognition of the elite in the form of prizes like the Nobel. Screenwriters can sell a lot of scripts, but some want the recognition of their elite, which is Academy Awards.

Scientists have scholarly disciplines. Screenwriters have genres.

Scientists work within paradigms. Screenwriters write sequels, spinoffs and remakes.

Unethical scientists commit plagiarism. Unethical screenwriters commit...plagiarism.

The biggest difference is the role of grad students and postdocs in science. A show business parallel would be if studios hired bands of Irish storytellers to come over and invent characters and write all the dialogue and jokes, and the screenwriter's job was just to assemble them into a plot and put his name on the final script. Then the Irish storytellers would be analogous to the grad students and postdocs, and the screenwriter would be analogous to the full-fledged scientist or what is called the "principal investigator."

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