One thought: I'm really glad no one is sending me emails like the one from an NIH administrator quoted in the article:
I do get indirectly accused of wasting taxpayer money by not teaching larger classes now and then, but the pressure is never quite this direct. As a taxpayer myself, I'd far rather "waste" money on inconclusive or negative results (which may be part of a necessary process of elimination) than have researchers pressured in this way.A few years later, another deadline was looming, and Elise Feingold, an NIH administrator, wanted to know what the lab had accomplished.“I do need some kind of progress report on what you have been doing the past two years . . . and what you think you can accomplish with these funds,” she wrote to Boeke.
Another thought: as somebody else (sorry; I can't remember who) remarked here recently, I'm really glad humanists don't have to work in teams. It seems likely that there was at least one toxic personality (and perhaps more) in the mix here, or perhaps there was just a really bad mix of personalities (I'd think that getting a good mix would be tricky, since you'd want some more cautious, detail-oriented people, and some more daring, big-picture thinkers, but not people so far on the end of either scale that they'd drive the project into the ditch, and/or each other crazy).
Finally, in part because of the recent conversation here, I found myself watching how I read the article. It tells a complicated story, with players located on at least two continents, and only a few of those players were willing to talk to the reporter. Given those facts (and the fact that one key player is dead), it's necessarily also an incomplete story. Under the circumstances, I think the author did a good job of telling the story as evenhandedly as possible, but I, at least, come away leaning toward believing Yuan's account, if only because it's the most complete one we get. But at least I'm aware of that bias, and have some idea of what additional information, and from what sources, might lead me to revise my thinking. That's the kind of reading I try to teach my students (who, if they think about these issues at all, usually want to apply their critical-reading skills toward finding an "unbiased" account, rather than toward recognizing and analyzing the role of bias/point of view in all narratives). That's a worthwhile skill, I think. (It's also interesting to see the wide variety of narratives, about everything from the scientific method to cultural differences to the pharmaceutical industry that show up in the comment thread. Humanists of several different stripes could have a field day analyzing the material down there).
And a final source of misery: this article turns out to belong to the "Business" section of the online post (not, say, Health & Science, where I expected to find it).
[Hmm. . .I think I may have gone a bit overboard on the commentary. Quelle Surprise. It may have turned out to be an inadvertent self-parody, but at least it's not an uncontextualized linked article. Have at it below, but be kind, huh? If nothing else, it seems to me that this article demonstrates that there's plenty of misery to go around.]