Gregory Petsko expounds eloquently on the "climate of fear" in science in a recent commentary in Genome Biology, titled "The right to be wrong." Drawing a provocative parallel to US politics, he describes how honest, intelligent people willing to admit their (almost always) understandable mistakes are turned on and burned at the stake for by their opponents, accused of lacking integrity and being "flip-floppers" . In science, the attacks are much less direct, but the attitude is still entrenched, and the vast majority of scientists are opting for "safe", incremental, "data gathering/discovery" based research as opposed to bold, hypothesis-driven science. The sentiment is echoed by funding agencies who do not want to risk funding anything that might "fail."
The commentary, although ominous at first, should inspire us all to behave as true scientists should - boldly but carefully, objectively and rationally.