Friday, May 19, 2023

The stealing/borrowing of credit

Via Derek Lowe, this remarkable article about the modern ibuprofen process, and the chemistry behind it, and the people behind it. This description of the politics was rather revealing and unfortunate: 

Did learning about and employing a “Quality” approach solve all my problems, or bring a big personal reward at Celanese? The answer was clearly no, at least in my individual case. Some of the unfortunate facets of human behavior intervened.

The Exploratory Group Leader and his Research Manager from the Celanese exploratory fine chemicals group began to internally tell and very often repeat a narrative to upper Celanese management, to the effect that the ibuprofen success was “really” just an outgrowth of their own prior “discoveries” related to HF chemistry. Celanese upper management (based at other sites), and later many other people inside and outside Celanese didn’t know any better (up to and including the Presidential Green Chemistry evaluators, and most of the people who have subsequently read about the Presidential Green Chemistry Award for the BHC process). 

Most of them accepted local Celanese management’s narrative version of the ibuprofen story without question, and have often repeated it later, in print and elsewhere. . .Our names were listed on the ibuprofen patent because legally they had to be listed, but were almost never mentioned again with respect to the BHC Ibuprofen Process, inside or outside Celanese. Meanwhile, the Exploratory Group Leader and the Research Manager reaped great personal/career rewards, and multiple promotions, by telling and re-telling their ibuprofen narrative.

It is weird to me how people steal credit (or perhaps take more credit than they deserve); I don't get it.  Nevertheless, people do it, and it makes me wonder if organizations should do their part to squelch such behavior. It's a hard problem. 

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20