Why Science Is More Competitive Than Sports

Serbian scientists name new species of beetle after Novak Djokovic, and we get this:

It is difficult to get more of a contrast between Djokovic and a scientist than that. Djokovic would never do such a thing.

“You’re not allowed to do that,” Djokovic tells ESPN.com. “That’s not how we handle things. You have to understand that we have to treat each other with respect. We are competing with each other. I am doing my best every night and trying to beat him. That’s the way we do it. You have to understand that. He’s the best tennis player in the world. … He’s going to give me a game. And I’ll take it.”

“It’s not an insulting thing to do. I don’t understand why we have to be so competitive. You’re not allowed to do that. I understand the reason – the pressure of him winning and winning and winning and winning. I understand that. And it’s cool. That’s how tennis is and you have to understand that.”

What he doesn’t understand is why the scientific community is more than willing to accept this sort of behavior. It is an open secret in the scientific community that most, if not all scientists are, in fact, very competitive and competitive to the exclusion of everything else. Some are even more competitive than the sports figures they are being asked to compete with.

Competitive behavior among scientists is nothing new. In fact, I have written extensively about the role of competitive behavior in scientific research misconduct (see, for example, my book, The Misbehavior Handbook: Scientific Misconduct and How to Avoid It). And, from the perspective of a scientist, competition is not an issue of “a few”. The vast majority of scientists in every field have some degree of competitive behavior.

Unfortunately, these scientist-competitive traits don’t seem to get much attention from the scientific community. Most scientists aren’t even aware of the extent to which

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