In an interview about scientific publishing with the public radio program The Story, Tom Curran, PhD, FRS, noted that while being published is undoubtedly important, "real gratification from a career in science … is really about helping others."
Dr. Curran, deputy scientific director of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, was interviewed as part of The Story's recent "A Word is Born" episode. The episode featured three segments about "the power of language," including Dr. Curran's take on whether, and how, scientists are encouraged to "tweak what they've learned in order to give a scientific journal a sexier lead," according to host Dick Gordon.
Asked whether scientists today feel more pressure to "streamline their information" to make it look "sexier," Curran said he believes "the pressure has mounted over the years, particularly for individuals who want to publish in the so-called ‘high profile' journals." While refraining from too harshly criticizing these journals, they can at times be "influenced more by the desire to publish a hot story than anything else," Dr. Curran pointed out.
"My approach has always been, you look for those discrepancies, you look for the complexities, because biology is complex, disease is very complex," Dr. Curran said. He also cautioned younger investigators against gearing their work toward "finding a headline."
However, for all of his publishing successes, Dr. Curran considers his greatest achievement his contribution to the development of a drug that is now in pediatric trials - Erivedge, which was recently approved by the FDA to treat cancer in adults. "And probably that's my greatest achievement. It's not the papers that came out … it's the kid who was treated," Dr. Curran said.
"I came to the conclusion that the best contributions to my own work came from other people, people who told me an idea or suggested something, and probably my best contributions were suggestions that I gave to others … and it I think this is the hardest part for young scientists … real gratification from a career in science … is really about helping others," Dr. Curran added.