FoRK Classic: Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates

Rohit Khare (
Mon, 02 Feb 1998 23:18:19 -0800

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This is actually somewhere on XeNT, but rather than root through about
50,000 files (yes, really!), here's another copy.

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From: (Rohit Khare)
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 1995 02:24:37 -0800
Subject: #1 Kudos for "Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates"
Cc: ysn@crow-t-robot.stanford.e

<A HREF="">
Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates </A>

[I am apologizing in advance for the length of this rambling discussion.
Consider the passion a compliment to your writing...]

I finally had a chance to read your entire speech on the Web tonight. I'd heard
the jist of it when you gave the original, but I was sobered to put the issue
in the context of Derek de Solla Price's work.

It's appropriate, too, that I came across this link the night before the Big
Interview with Boston Consulting Group.

1) "The best an brightest leaving science" Well, that's exactly what's about to
happen isn't it? Undergraduates going into management consulting was unheard of
at Caltech & science students until barely two or three years ago, I think.

2) "Exponential growth cannot go on" Computer Science is just discovering this.
Not that you need to hear any more hosannahs for the theory, but it's been the
talk of the field since 1990 that we're not founding any more CS departments,
that PhDs are being forced into _high school_ teaching, &c...

3) Scientific Elites within Scientific Elites. An unexplored consequence of the
mining and sorting process is the judgement passed between schools. Looking
through the brochures of the top ten CS graduate departments, the faculty is
almost exclusively filled with graduates of the other 9. As science shrinks,
you stated peer review will weaken; departmental elitism will surely increase,

4) Current Strategies. Well, for those of us in the pipeline, we're aware of
the risks, and I think Caltech, at least, is doing a better job of preparing us
for non-academic-research-careers. I am ready for this new world; I am ready
for so many different careers, I have a dozen offers in four separate fields.
Work for Smart People is getting better and better, as the income and
achievement disparities between upper and lower increases. (the 80's: flat
means, skyrocketing variance)

5) BUT! But.... what about MY chance to take part in Science (with a capital
S)? I'm twenty, with a BS from Caltech in Economics, ENAS, and possibly an MS
in Computer Science, with a 3.7, four years of research experience, and I'm not
going to get into CS graduate school. I have known since, well, the very
beginning, that I was going to do Research, have a Big Idea, and join the three
generations of Dr. Khares. And that world, as you said, no longer exists.

Thus, I make my closing point about the wholesale changes to the social
structure of science you alluded to. If Science goes as Science is, what of
Research? I, for example, have some clear research ideas that go beyond what
any one (necessarily) nearsighted software company would fund. It's not a
product; I haven't even the scientific discipline to enunciate what it is yet
(Catch-22). Perhaps the future calls only for ever more-stringent sorting and
polishing -- but what, indeed, will come of the well-taught man or woman's
ability to interact with Science?

Rohit Khare

PS. Precisely what kind of Golden Rolodex do they keep at _Science_, anyway?
Scarce a month goes by without a quotable tidbit from Caltech's Vice-Provost...