Adam James voices a common frustration of senior scientists regarding their administrative burden (Nature 475, 257; 2011). This viewpoint presumes a narrow definition of scientific practice and a rigid dichotomy between administrative and research tasks. Scientists should view administration as part of the research process, rather than eschewing it.

Scientific administration is a means of articulating science beyond the lab and is best performed by senior scientists with a wide-ranging knowledge of science and its contexts. It demands a sound knowledge of the science being practised, and improves as research networks expand. It helps to implement science at the level of the individual experiment as well as the discipline.

An enormous administrative effort went into institutionalizing molecular biology (N. C. Mullins Minerva 10, 51–82; 1972). And as long ago as 1839, Charles Darwin had to organize the logistics of his lengthy voyage on HMS Beagle and categorize his samples.

Science confers considerable pressures on its practitioners. Entrants to the profession would do well to recognize that managing these pressures entails balancing research and administration, not separating them.