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Who Me, a Snob?

It's a common enough situation that Keith Weaver describes at Nature: at a conference, there are a number of talks scheduled at the same time, and you have to choose which to go to. And sometimes that choice is driven by not the title of the talks, but from what institutions the speakers hail.

At In the Pipeline, Derek Lowe notes that such snobbery isn't limited to academia. "This carries over to industry, too, both in the ways that people look at other's academic backgrounds, and even in terms of industrial pedigrees," he writes. "Working for a biopharma that's been successful, that everyone's heard of, does a lot more for your reputation than working for one that no one knows anything about.

Weaver adds that this preference for prestigious labs or universities hurts both those at less well-known spots and the investigators who ignore them. "In many cases, this is a loss: to my students and their projects, which could have benefited from the input, and to the investigators who might have missed information that could have been useful in their own work," he says.

Both Weaver and Lowe write that researchers should acknowledge this bias and try to correct it, especially, as Lowe notes, "some very smart people have come out of some very obscure backgrounds, and you can't — and shouldn't — assume anything in that line."

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