@Esko Kilpi writes, “ The better-networked scientist is the better scientist”
I am no more sure of the word “better” here. I suppose the word “better” is used here in the sense of “outcomes” or “final result” or the “winner”, not necessarily, in the sense of the “quality of the output”, or whether one solved a major challenge. That said, I agree with the main thesis of this argument that in the end, of the two scientists, the one with larger network is the one whose ideas spread faster and get recognised. History is replete with examples, and the one example that comes to mind from my neck of the woods in Calcutta, India, is the tragic tale of Dr Subhash Mukherjee, who should have been credited with the pride of the first even test tube baby (months before Dr Patrick Steptoe announced his success); again, a poor network and lack of documentation, so we are told, came in the way. The doctor committed suicide in vain with no recognition for his effort, and this tragic incident, I’d say is tantamount to the thesis of this post as it plays out. The one with wider reach wins.
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But does that necessarily equate to “better quality”?
Albeit the better networked scientist/creator has a larger reach for his ideas, and his ideas will reach a wider range of people who will see value and recognition, but this network reach does not necessarily inform us anything about the excellence or the quality of the work.
More often than not, innovation is the art of putting together and identifying patterns that were already there. What about the silent diligent types who work, are innovative, but do not necessarily are gifted with the people or network skills. Unless the power of the network can be directed to identify those hidden geniuses, or the “grey people”, if you will, we run a risk of perpetuating mediocrity by the sheer dint of network, beyond a certain level.