Today the editors of the Scientific American Blog Network are announcing a new vision for the network, one with increased editorial oversight and more editorial curation of the subjects covered by network bloggers. Part of that shift involves a pruning of blogs from the existing network, including this one.
Three and a half years ago, in July 2011, “Doing Good Science” was a brand new blog. I had been writing my other blog, “Adventures in Ethics and Science”, since February 2005, and owing to a relatively high proportion of working scientists and science students in my readership and commentariat, some of my discussions of responsible conduct of research there seemed to me to have drifted into “inside baseball” territory.
From the start, my project here has been aimed at connecting a broader audience with ethical issues in science.
Some of these are ethical issues connected to how scientific knowledge is built, while others involve ethical implications of how scientific knowledge is applied to needs and wants from beyond the scientific community. A common thread in our discussions has been the inescapably human dimension of science — the fact that scientific knowledge is built by standard-issue human beings, working in coordination to get a more reliable handle on the features of our world than any individual human could get on their own.
Scientists are humans, just like the rest of us, but engaged in a powerful set of activities without which our universe would be much less intelligible.
Sharing that universe with each other is the point of ethics. How scientists and non-scientists share a world — how they share information and find common ground despite the diversity of their goals and values — has been another central concern of our discussions here. C.P. Snow famously described a chasm between “the two cultures,” scientists and intellectuals of a more literary and humanistic bent. To the extent that there is a gap between people building different kinds of knowledge in our world, it is surely worth bridging. Even more urgent, I’d argue, is the problem of bridging the gap between intellectuals of all stripes and their fellow humans who do not identify themselves primarily as knowledge-builders.
Scientific concerns are human concerns. Human needs and aspirations may be served by scientific research and intervention. And, at the end of the day, we have just one world that we must share with each other. Sharing a world may be easier if non-scientists better understand the knowledge-building project in which scientists are engaged (including its human dimensions). I expect it would also be easier if scientists had a better understanding of the central concerns, hopes, and fears of the non-scientists in their world.
Building this understanding is an ongoing project, one I am committed to pursuing.
Though this is the last “Doing Good Science” post at Scientific American, the blog will continue at a new home (coordinates to be posted here once it’s set up). And, you may see me from time to time on the Guest Blog.
In the meantime, if you’re a tweeter, you can find me on Twitter.
Thanks very much for the conversations. It’s been a privilege to share this corner of the world with you.