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Differences between British and American science


Making a career in science now
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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I think- I think in science you can count on making a career now if you're- if you're competent. When I was in Oxford, an old don in Christ Church said to me, that's all right, you can go on in science but nobody without a private income should do so. That's not the case any more.
There's a lot more pressure on young people. Do you not think it is harder for young people starting in their careers in science to see their way ahead?
I don't quite see why. Why is it more difficult now than it was then? Are you thinking that- is one thinking that science is- requires resources, now requires resources which are so large that a young recruit can't be entrusted with the- free access to the resources which are needed now? I don't see that, I've been- in the laboratory which I have been working for the past few years and run by Järgen Roes, there's a hell of a lot of problems in Järgen Roes lab which he would be the first person to recognise but I have seen competent young people coming in and building things for themselves, building their piece of science for themselves, and I think that's the most charming and the most- that's the wave of the future, in a way that setting up a big group of researchers can't do.
So you don't see a problem in the future of attracting our best young people into science?
Well, fundamentally I don't, because you know, unless the whole development, economic development, of the world in which we live changes radically, I mean we may all get frozen in the next ice age or we may get boiled in the next climate- during the course of the next climate wave or Western Europe may stop having children altogether and if we have to survive at all in Western Europe we would have to do it with immigrants. There are problems in that direction that I think that really the direction of change- we are getting richer, wealthier, and the wealthier society is, the more it can spend on cultural activity in the larger sense. And cultural activity without science is inconceivable, it's an integral part of- of the culture of the developed world.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010