However, I am here also thinking of “despicable people” in a more general “jerk” sense to include those who are simply mean to others, such as their students, collaborators, field crew, or even competitors. Such meanness can be in-your-face overt insults or degradation or it can be subtle behind-the-scenes (or behind the screen of anonymous peer-review) maneuvering to reject grants or papers of competitors. When we have knowledge of which people out there are jerks, how should we treat their science? Should we read it in discussion groups? Should we invite them for seminars? Should we cite their work? Should we continue to laud them? If these people weren’t influential, then it would perhaps be a much simpler matter, but some them have published exceptional and influential studies.
Perhaps, we have less of a conundrum here than in the case of enterprises like movies, where many other people are involved. That is, perhaps we should feel comfortable about punishing (or at least not rewarding) a person by downgrading their science. For instance, I see no reason to invite, for a symposium or key note or even departmental seminar, someone who is a jerk. Also, if a choice exists between citing several different papers, I would happily cite those by nice people over those by known jerks. (Of course, it is sometimes impossible to avoid citing some papers by jerks.)