August 9, 2014

Russell Garwood
University of Manchester

Dear Dr. Garwood:
I have read your piece (Uprooting researchers can drive them out of science
NATURE vol. 510 no. 7505 June 19, 2014 page 313) with interest and am in complete agreement.  Who could be otherwise?

As is my wont, I look down the road a generation or two and think, “These interested and capable young people who are driven from science, will not their children also be soured on the field?”  Of course there are many who are not interested in having children of their own, but everybody should be interested in children broadly speaking.  I take it as axiomatic that a scientist is more likely than the average person to have a child interested in science.  So there is more lost than just the individual.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that scientists do not have an abundance of children on average.  In the US we must perforce recruit abroad.  We just don’t have the young people we would like to have.  That foreign recruitment has things to be said for it, but sustainability is not among them.  So far as I can tell, the intellectual class has a fertility issue globally.  To make matters worse, when a young scientist moves, whether to the next town or half way round the world there is more than a social and emotional price.  There is a biological price.  My own studies ( suggest that those who marry outside their own circle of kindred (I would make that to be a few hundred in number) pay a significant fertility price, as do their children.  Let me repeat: this is the same price whether it is tenth cousin or a cousin separated by a thousand generations, what we would call, erroneously, “unrelated.” 

Uprooting young people, even to a modest degree, bodes ill for the future if those are people we highly value.  

Do you know a single person in the sciences or medicine who has married a third of fourth cousin?  I do not.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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