Authoritarians always confuse credentials with expertise. Take Eleven.

November 3, 2011

I am greatly enjoying reading this measured takedown

For example, the article on states, “Grad students often co-author scientific papers to help with the laborious task of writing. Such papers are rarely the cornerstone for trillions of dollars worth of government climate funding, however — nor do they win Nobel Peace prizes.” I will assume that the bit about “Nobel Peace prizes” was a mistake made by the Fox News writer, since as I’m sure you’re aware, scientific achievements do not lead to Peace prizes. Further, most science of any kind doesn’t lead to a Nobel Prize. They really don’t hand out that many of them.

But let’s de-construct this one a little more. Grad students often are the lead author on scientific publications, because they carried out the work. I know you feel that this shouldn’t be the case. How can they do science without a Ph.D?! Well, it turns out that’s how you get a Ph.D. By doing research that leads to publications.

of this variety of ignorant mewling about the conduct of science.

“We’ve been told for the past two decades that ‘the Climate Bible’ was written by the world’s foremost experts,” Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise told “But the fact is, you are just not qualified without a doctorate. In academia you aren’t even on the radar at that point.”

In academia, the people who are “on the radar” for any given topic are those who are most directly and deeply involved in the work. Sometimes that breadth and depth comes from a longer career in the field. Sometimes it comes because as a grad student you have done nothing else other than focus exclusively, think deeply and read exhaustively on a given topic. Ultimately, those who should be listened to most are those that know the most.

Academic credentials can be the marker, but are no substitute, for expertise.

No Responses Yet to “Authoritarians always confuse credentials with expertise. Take Eleven.”

  1. D. C. Sessions Says:

    Hmmm … And how many Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry were (much later) awarded for work done while grad students? I know there were a few, but I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few too.


  2. DNLee Says:

    AND, if you wait UNTIL getting your doctorate to get on the radar, then you are a little behind. As a PhD candidate, hopefully you are making waves and people are getting to know who you are (within your field/specific study area) before you defend the dissertation.

    She presents at ‘teaching moment’ for how the scientific process and gaining academic letters works.


  3. Because, you see, the doctorate is actually a magic spell that confers genius and expertise upon the holder. Everything up to that point is just to appease the gods (aka faculty) so that one day you too can be chosen to be blessed.


  4. Jim Thomerson Says:

    The year after I received my PhD, I returned to my PhD institution for a visit. After talking to one of my grad school buddies (who received his PhD a couple of years later) he remarked that getting the PhD had not turned me into a butterfly; but, rather had turned my world into a butterfly.


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