Editor in Chief at BioEssays, Andrew Moore, recently called for greater recognition of what he calls "integrators."
These are scientists who earn fewer grants, churn out fewer results, and publish fewer papers than their peers. Instead, they synthesize and contextualize the work of others, often with a cross-disciplinary perspective, and often coming up with new tunes of their own.
Both kinds of contributions are crucial but the former tend to earn higher scientific regard than the latter. Moore asks us to drop this bias against this second level of analysis. No matter what it looks like, integrators are creators too and they're not taking the easy way out either.
Plus, as data and results pile up--as it becomes increasingly impossible to keep up in lock step with the output of highly specialized fields and for specialists to keep up with what others are doing--integrators are needed more than ever.
But they can't be any geeks off the street; Moore suggests that universities take an active role in training integrators. Perhaps anyone interested in training integrators should look to their local anthropology department. There, they might find some nice role models because of the cross-disciplinary, context-aware, and synthetic nature of the research.