Below is my first reaction to this horrible tragedy:
The tragic (and at the same time ugly) story of yesterday, being somehow lost among the news about the opening of Winter Olympics in Vancouver, brings university shootings at the principally new level.
The “berserk” is now not more a naughty and psychotic adolescent, who just wishes to attain more skills in “shooting” computer games by training on living people.
The delinquent is in this case a ripe woman, Dr. Amy Bishop, an assistant professor in biology with a Harvard PhD in her pocket, inventor of a portable cell-incubator called “InQ”, which won an award in a state competition, leader of a neurocybernetics project called “The Neuristor”, which tries to use living neurons as integrated circuits in a completely novel computer …
Anyway, nothing can ever justify killing anybody !
Specifically, Dr. Bishop was reportedly denied tenure. What happened after that, may be that Bishop had gone off when she perceived the University as trying to take and profit off of an idea she developed, just as they were getting rid of her.
The background and the motive are by far not new ! Well, if the above hypothesis is correct, everybody who has or had to do with the official science may easily re-enact in his/her mind what happened in Dr. Bishop’s soul (the killing of three and wounding of other three colleagues does not exclude a definite psychotic component, though) …
To my mind, this story is a bright illustration of a deep structural crisis in the official academic science (cf. my previous blog). Projects mean grants, grants mean money, absence of money means grudge, grudge means bullying, bullying means death (either of the one who is being bullied – or possibly even of those who bullies the one) …
Many sincere thanks to all commenters !
After hearing to the opinion of the true specialist in the field (cf. the comments by DAEDALUS2U below, and his own blog), as well as learning the colleague who knows Ami Bishop and her family personally since decades (please check all comments by the user ZOREAN here) – here is my present viewpoint:
**** Added as of February, 18, 2010, 08:55 European time ****
I am 27 years in the academia doing research all over the world, a complete insider. So please hear attentively what I have to tell you.
The “academic tenure” is truly a “Holy Grail”, but it has long turned into a hotbed of “academic schmuck”, the shameless people, who are just striving for their social success at any price. Since several decades this “schmuck” infiltrates decision-making positions (first of all, the funding control) in academia, and the process is gradually becoming to be an avalanche (if you are interested in the reasons for such a development, you might wish to click here) …
Dr. Amy Bishop is a True Scientist, according to the people who know her and her family since decades. The gutter (an example of especially malignant gutter I could fetch is here) which is outpoured upon her sick head all over the world is just a gutter, I cannot find any other word for all this …
Further, the so-called “tenure-track” in the academia is a “voluntary slavery”, which is a clear prerequisite to drive psychically unstable persons like Dr. Amy Bishop into horrible madness … The True Scientists – (if you’d ever met them, you’d know !) – are not capable to do something else with their PhDs – but solely scientific research …
Look, the problem is that the True Researchers are well known to be somewhat “odd”, to be “loners” – at least, all of those whom I have honor and pleasure to know – are exactly like this. Yes, Dr. Amy Bishop is an extreme case, sure …
The even more aggravated problem is that the academia folks consist not only of the True Scientists, but also of the “schmuck” I have already mentioned above.
Being a “quota-hired, tenure-track True Scientist”, you are damned to bring the social success to all this tenured “schmuck” with all your work – and after all you are in fact invisible, you are totally out, you are looser … Try to place yourself into such a situation – what could be your feelings ???
All the “schmuck” is tenured – but not all the tenured academia colleagues are “schmuck”: and here is the true recipe for disaster ! The reports about those who were violently killed last Friday show them as True Scientists too … Most probably they were completely innocent people. Do you think, it would be better, if Dr. Amy Bishop or other colleagues in similar situations would commit suicide (for Goodness sake !!!) ??? Isn’t this worthwhile a serious investigation ??? Or it is better to preserve the “research grant” system, which is nothing else but the “Fressnapf” for the “academic schmuck”, the hotbed of this dreadful infiltrate ???
The final problem, namely what could be invented instead of “research grants” is kind of “dodgy” – I agree. But this is exactly the lesson which is taught by this horrible tragedy: there is urgent time for an open, public discussion on how to single out and change all the wrong things (the example of such a discussion is here) …
I am sorry, guys, but what you are doing on this site is a kind of nit-picking activity. You’d ask – why ? I have three answers:
1. This extremely complicated case surely requires a serious investigation. But the above-mentioned blog is an attempt by a lawyer to evaluate on her own hook something which requires a professional evaluation, instead of worrying about finding the proper consultants. This lawyer has yesterday made the following confession, which is completely self-explaining:
2. Furthermore, the latter lawyer responded to my rhetoric question as follows:
mary agnes o’connor said…
Donquixote5: Thank you for your comments.
You ask,”Do you think, it would be better, if Dr. Amy Bishop or other colleagues in similar situations would commit suicide (for Goodness sake !!!) ???” Generally, I subscribe to the trite but true school of thought that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That said, yes. I think Dr. Bishop’s family and most definitely all of her victims and their loved ones would be better off if Dr. Bishop had chosen suicide last Thursday instead of the cold blooded massacre of her colleagues last Friday.
3. Finally, this lawyer deprives Dr. Amy Bishop of the naturally appertained presumption of innocence, by assuming from the very beginning on that Dr. Bishop is devil in a woman, and then simply tries by all possible and impossible means to persuade the mass reader (not without success !!!), that all the reckless invectives uttered in her blogs represent just the Only Ultimative Truth …
I regret, but I fear, the “trite but true school of thought” honorable Mrs O’Connor is “subscribing to” seems to borrow an essential part from the theory of “Menschliche Auslese und Rassenhygiene” … To my mind, with the “partiality” of such a kind, one shouldn’t be eligible to investigate the intricate and bizarre case in question …
As for me myself, I’m adept of the peaceful way. Although the polarisation between the True Researchers and the “academic schmuck” starts to reach fatal grades, as the unspeakably horrible tragedy at UAH has shown, NOTHING CAN JUSTIFY MURDERS, SUICIDES ETC ! There are many other ways to effectively and peacefully deal with the problem. For example, I have VOLUNTARILY left the “official science”, am working in industry and continuing my research on a purely honorary basis as a kind of “hobby”, without taking any salary for the latter. I know personally several colleagues all over the world – dedicated researchers who are doing exactly the same.
One of the reasons of why I have left academia are described in my blog below:
Added on Feb. 19, 23:30 European time:
A very insightful link, the detailed investigation into the case starts soon:
Added on Feb. 20, 13:30 European time:
An apt, timely, terrific – and throughout professional – story is here:
Added on February, 20, 22:45 European time:
Dear colleagues and non-colleagues,
to my mind, it’s totally fundamentally wrong to look for “stars” in the science ! It is here that a great temptation of delusion/self-delusion begins.
Scientific research is not sports. In the latter, everybody has to carry out one and the same sequence of exercises, so that the results can easily be evaluated according to commonly accepted criteria, like time, distance etc.
As for the research activity, can you clearly define what exactly its outcome is ? Very often you carry out very expensive and bizarre experiments, you write sophisticated theories, you run large-scale years-long computer simulations to obtain just the only answer – “the phenomenon we were studying is sheer impossible”.
In such a case – have you rightfully spent money you have got for your research ?
Sometimes it is absolutely impossible (even for keen professionals in the field) to clearly evaluate definite degree of usefulness some particular theory or experiment might be possessed of – years and years must elapse before the damned “informational barrier” could be overcome …
Especially misleading is the common system in academia, where everybody’s trying to determine who is “star” and who is “not star” just by counting the number of publications – or by checking who has papers in “Science”, “Nature”, “Angewandte Chemie”, “JACS” or likewise. There may be a sole paper which is ground-breaking, but hundreds of scam papers. The mentioned “big” journals are frequently publishing scam, every specialist knows this very well.
Every True Scientist is a star in him/herself, True Scientists are different from each other and from non-scientists !
Therefore I completely agree with Zorean that “as a society what we need to do is to learn to embrace and help people who are “different” or who are greatly and emotionally tied to certain outcomes/situations.”
But how to achieve this ideal state of affairs – is a big problem …
And now let us try to consider this whole dreadful story from a quite different standpoint – namely, not from “inside”, but from “outside”.
I guess, in this particular case, BOTH Amy Bishop AND the UAH administration bear the responsibility. However, it is extremely difficult to determine – without a fair and detailed investigation into this case – the exact ratio of these responsibilities …
Please note also another aspect. When denying tenure, the responsible administrators follow THEIR OWN logics and are fully persuaded by THEIR OWN train of thoughts.
That such an “administrative” logics is sometimes at odds with the conventional human one is correct. But it is exactly here that the true “blind alley” starts …
On the other hand, Amy Bishop – as every human being – has her own logics and her own train of thoughts … Now, the two “trains of thoughts” have violently collided – there are very clear casualties !
The both sides: Dr. Bishop and the UAH administrators have surely the right to drive their own trains of thoughts. But there must be a fair “roadmap” for these both trains, not to induce violent collisions like that horrific tragedy of the week ago …
Again, we come to a conclusion that the modern academic system doesn’t provide – at least, for the people like Amy Bishop – the fair “roadmap” !
It is impossible to place people into a permanent “struggle for the survival” !
It is sheer impossible to play with “everything” or “nothing”, this play becomes a pure sadism, in the long run. This means, I would like to estimate the UAH administrators as (potential) sadists. And – as a consequence – I would like to estimate the unlucky “quota hires”, “tenure-tracks”, “postdocs” etc. as (potential) masochists.
A couple “sadist-masochist” seems to be stable, but in fact it could exhibit a steady functioning only if the system is closed …
But the system is open (Thank Goodness !). And exactly this fact renders the system “sadist-masochist” intrinsically unstable.
One of the definitions of unstable systems tells us that if a system exhibits exceedingly huge reaction in response to a tiny external stimulus, it may be qualified as ‘unstable’ …
Look, this is but exactly, what we have seen last week at UAH !
Apart from the terrible tragedy of all those who was involved into this violent drama, there is a definite clear-cut conclusion:
The modern academic system is vicious, it is corrupt – because of its intrinsic instability.
This state of affairs MUST somehow be changed ! Otherwise, we’ll witness other similar collisions all around the world !