Science in Society

Bryn Mawr College

Grad Idea Forum

29 January 2003
On Being a Scientist, by Paul Grobstein

Additions, revisions, extensions are encouraged in the Forum.

The first meeting of the new year was dedicated to discussion of the reading "On Being A Scientist" by the National Academy of Scientists and "Getting it Less Wrong, the Brain's Way: Science, Pragmatism and Multiplism" by our own Paul Grobstein.

Xenia started us with her "pet issue" about how crediting within scientific circles occurs, particularly some of the intricacies of how crediting technical contributions in laboratory sciences and other contributory issues get lost and only the official authors/ scholars get recognition. The social science people found this interesting in light of the movement in the other direction to assure crediting of students and others who might have contributed to an author's thought process. It was recognized that 2 ideals are in conflict- the ideal of knowledge building assumes cooperation and shared knowledge, while the ideal of scholarly progression focuses on intellectual property and "owning" ideas (something someone called the "trophy"issue). The issue of how these issues then affect funding was also a point of discussion.

Further discussion occurred around Paul's piece with the social science people finding that changing the question from "multiple realities" to "multiple interpretations" helps obviate the need for conflicts about "What is real?" Participation in the Blind spot exercise yielded more discussion about the ways interpretation, "filling in the blanks" and the tendency of some scientists to believe that they can access one "true Reality" become mutually reinforcing of differences between sciences. Agreement was reached with the notion that all scientists will benefit by embracing the idea of uncertainty and that experimental method does not yield the only "T"ruth.

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