Eric Green on Competition in Science
  Eric Green     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

You know, it’s interesting. I don’t know if I regard genomics and activities in the human genome project as significantly more competitive than a lot of other aspects of science. I’ve heard some people say that. I think part of the problem that somewhat gets amplified is the nature of the science and the nature of the funding mechanisms are such that in order to really play a significant role, you need to command significant grants. And by the way, the genome project grants that were given out broke all records at the NIH. And so it was high stakes. And you had to get those stakes to make an impact. And I think as a result of that, you know, that created a sense of significant competition. But I think at the core, I can’t imagine Cold Spring Harbor has not seen far more intense, far more cut throat, far more competitive scientists come through in some of their other meetings than they would see in genomics. I just think that the dynamics were different, so maybe it appeared like it was more competitive.

But in reality, if you look at the underlying personality traits of a lot of the major genome scientists, with a few exceptions, they are not necessarily the most competitive people. I mean the fact that they were very willing to do things, which the amount of individual credit was significantly blurred for the amount of work that they are putting in. That’s not the nature of a highly competitive person. This is a very shared, you know, releasing data, working in consortiums, and being the middle author on a hundred and fifty-author paper. That is not the characteristics of what I would regard as a super competitive scientist.

I do think that competition boiled up because in order to command a sizeable enough program to make an impact, it required high stakes, you know, going after grant money; that created an aura of competition. And then, of course, there were all the private sector issues.

Eric Green received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin (1981) and his M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University School of Medicine (1987). During his residency training in clinical pathology, he worked Maynard Olson’s lab, where he developed approaches for utilizing yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) to construct physical maps of DNA. His work also included initiation of a project to construct a complete physical map of human chromosome 7.

In 1992, he became an assistant professor of pathology, genetics, and medicine as well as a co-investigator in the Human Genome Center at Washington University. In 1994, he moved his research laboratory to the intramural program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health. In November, 2009 he was appointed Director of NHGRI, after serving in the roles of NHGRI scientific director, director of NHGRI Division of Intramural Research, Chief of the Genome Technology Branch and that branches Physical Mapping Section, and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center (NISC). His lab’s current focus is on the application of large-scale DNA to study problems in human genomics, genetics, and biology.

Among the numerous awards Eric Green has received are induction into the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2002 and into the America Association of Physicians in 2007. He is a founding editor of Genome Research, has edited the series, Genome Analysis: A Laboratory Manual, and, since 2005, is co-editor of the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics.