Peter Higgs Says He Would Never Make It in Science Today

Illustration for article titled Peter Higgs Says He Would Never Make It in Science Today

Peter Higgs, who proposed the existence of what would be dubbed the Higgs Boson, says that he wouldn't cut it if he were entering academic science today. Keep in mind that this dude won a Nobel Prize for physics a few months ago.

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Higgs did an interview with The Guardian while on his way to pick up his Nobel Prize, as one does, and was pretty candid about his lack of measurable productivity in the years after he published his major theory. During his time at Edinburgh University he says that he became "an embarrassment to the department" at assessment season when everyone else was showing off the papers they had published in a given year.

Higgs retired in 1996 and attempted to further remove himself from the academic world, though he was eventually drawn back in a bit when the Large Hadron Collider at CERN started to have promising results. Higgs told The Guardian that, "Today I wouldn't get an academic job. It's as simple as that. I don't think I would be regarded as productive enough."

To be fair, there was clearly tension about Higgs's lack of productivity during his tenure, so it's not as if there was a specific point in the last few years when consistent publishing became significantly more important than it had been. Also, Higgs would definitely not be employable today given that he "says he has never sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call." Yeah. There's that.

But his comments do raise the question of whether the scientific community is missing out on employing some great thinkers by putting so much weight on quantity of results. Higgs says, "It's difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964." [The Guardian via Digg]

DISCUSSION

retroboy
retroboy

The tenure system needs to be changed. I will say I don't know what the answer is but does a English professor need a lifetime job when compared to a particle physicist? Are all professors and the subjects the same?

If tenure where changed to favor STEM but not ignore the arts and social science it might be a better system. Give that Latin Prof a contract but a job for life to protect intellectual freedom of a long dead language has never made sense to me.

The current system seems to often give the laziest professors protections to not be productive. In business a scientist makes more money than a writer (for the most part) why should colleges be able to flaunt that reality with teaching jobs. I'm aware that medical profs make more money than other but in the undergrad world all teachers are basically at the same salary.