While watching an episode of the History Channel's "The Food That Built America" the other night, specifically the episode telling of the virtual all-out war between Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola for market share over the years was the one, I thought to myself, "Well, that's cutthroat business for you!"
But then, for some reason, I began to wonder just how much intense competitions and rivalries, even of that degree of hostility, among scientists over the years may have played a role in the significant discoveries they made, and that may have in fact benefited us.
Did such hostile competitions and rivalries, if they occurred, actually make the scientists work harder and faster, to beat out the other guy? With the result that the fruits of their discoveries got to us faster, than if those guys had gone home every day at 5PM, instead of working late into the night in order to get an "edge" on the other guy?
Maybe a lot of us have had the notion, perhaps even subconsciously, that there is something somehow noble in scientific research, that there is a sort of gentlemanly approach to its performance, and that the conduct of its researchers is almost always very much above board.
Well, maybe that's true much of the time, but a little reading reveals that, sometimes, and some would insist even much of the time, even among the most prestigious and dignified of researchers and institutions, the rivalries and competitions to be the first to make that great discovery can get pretty intense.
Here's an article, fairly short, that touches on a number of factors that can come into play and cause even scientific research to become, well, pretty fierce:https://explorable.com/competition-in-science
From the article:"Scientists horde their work, keep their data secretive, they don’t like to discuss their projects until it is time to publish and present. They can be down right paranoid. There are labs that are controlled by armed guards. This atmosphere is definitely not the atmosphere that is expected."
"... vying for the funds ... this is where some of the nasty stuff starts, in order to be awarded those funds you have to be better than the rest at the starting gate. A few well placed rumors; maybe a few reminders of research gone bad could help in these first few steps forward. This is where science can get real ugly."
"Solving a problem first can gain additional funding for future projects, bolsters the standing of the scientist within the research community and will lead to future recognition in the field."
"How can there be stories in the media of stolen work? Very simply, scientists are people too. They are fallible. There is a great pressure to publish, that is, the only way work can be recognized is by sharing it."
"That's the game - publication. It's not about the money. Being second in academic findings is being last. There is no second in academia."
"Labs are high security institutes now because of the competition that exists. They are loaded down with security equipment. There are some labs that are so secretive that they are protected by armed guards. The latest technology available is used to control access points."
And some historical examples of intense scientific rivalries:https://www.scienceabc.com/pure-sciences/scientists-rivalries-competition-edison-tesla-newton-sabin-hooke-faraday-davy.html
But, as noted above, do intense rivalries, as unsavory as they may be on a personal level, actually increase the rate of benefits reaching the public earlier, in a rush to beat the other guy? Especially if, say, a cure for a disease is that benefit? Have lives been saved because a cure for a disease reached the public sooner than it would have, simply because of the rivalry between two scientists, and their haste to beat the other guy?