I am afraid that scientific training leads too often to idealism. We know the conditions we should have for our work, and we are impatient with those who do not recognize them. We act as though the suitable conditions should be offered to us freely as our right; and when they are not, we rail at those who could help us but do not. In fact, I have been surprised at the confidence shown in us by those who have no conception of what we are doing, and whom we do not take the trouble to inform. This argues well for the possible results of a persistent general campaign of education.
I have no large faith that there will be any such campaign, for in my experience investigators have cultivated indifference. Each man is anxious for his own investigation, but not troubled to the point of effort about investigation in general. My chief concern is to secure recognition of the fact that we are being treated about as well as we can expect; and that there is an opportunity for us to do better for ourselves, and far better for investigation in general, if we care to avail ourselves of it.
This is not a matter for organization or concerted action on the part of scientific men, but it is the cultivation of a general sentiment among them in favor of giving the public such information as has been suggested; a sentiment that acts when opportunity offers. This general sentiment is absolutely necessary, for, so far as I know, it is all the other way at present; and the man who sees his work reported in the public press shudders a little when he thinks of his colleagues. After all, it is the good opinion of his colleagues that a scientific man prizes most, and rightly; and he must feel them solidly behind him in any new departure.
The attitude of our colleagues across the Atlantic can not be taken as our guide in this matter, for our institutions and our people, whether we approve of them or not, are different. Besides, our European brethren are facing to-day the same problem, and with a much more hopeless outlook. I have been assured by my German colleagues that since their government has become deeply interested in world politics the chances for increased support for research have diminished, and they regard private support as hopeless. We have behind us a public more prosperous and much more generous, accustomed to support liberally what it is interested in. If this can be taken advantage of, there is no reason why research in America can not be developed to an extent that is without precedent.