I have a friend who recently got hired for a tenure-track position at a major American university, after two years of postdocs and sessional lecturing. This friend — who, like me, is under 30 — is an academic rock star: he has a long list of publications, manages to participate in 3-4 conferences a year, has won some of the most prestigious fellowships to be had, and now sits atop the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow (i.e. a permanent, well-paid, prestigious job). Granted, he never had to work (even when he wasn’t riding out a fat fellowship) because he also had a very handy trust fund, he doesn’t have kids or anyone to look after but himself, and he is a master at the professional art of ass-kissing networking. The only reason he is my friend and not my mortal enemy is because he is always the first to admit that these lucky advantages were major players in helping him build his very successful academic career, with an endearing honesty that makes it very hard to hate him.
My friend also admitted to me the other day that throughout grad school and even today, he occasionally pops a neuroenhancing pill to help sharpen his mind if he’s feeling a bit tired or distracted and needs to push out an article or conference paper. In other words, he’ll readily take drugs like Ritalin or Adderall in order to give him an intellectual boost. A boost that might be considered by some as an unfair advantage akin to cheating.