Joined: April 2006
|Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 15 2007,13:49)|
|I think that scientific culture is long overdue for revision to encourage social engagement. Scientists should be rewarded for community involvment in explaining the role of science and what science does. Currently, though, pretty much the opposite applies. Scientists who do spend time in community outreach are penalized for those activities. The penalty is often the automatic one that there is only a finite amount of time, and those who do community outreach are likely to be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who do not.|
I read your post and Matt Penfold's follow-up and had a few thoughts on the matter. I'm not a scientist, and I'm not really familiar with the competitive landscape in which you operate. So, the notion that there would be a penalty of the kind you describe for trying to do good in the form of outreach and involvement hadn't occurred to me. It does make a hard kind of sense why that would be the case, though.
If I understood what you wrote correctly, your reference to the change in "scientific culture" meant a change in the culture of the members of the scientific community itself. I think that notion is laudable, but I see an obvious problem in finding a mechanism that negates the penalty that you wrote about.
I suppose the issue is: Can real value be found in the kind of involvement you wrote about? Value that could offset the opportunity missed to do research or experiments? I think it possible that there may be value to be found, of the "soft" kind, but to see it may require a longer view than acceptable in our society that's always looking to this quarter's financial results.
Although it seems naive as I write it, perhaps one place to find that value is to encourage and reward much more heavy involvement by working scientists in primary and secondary science education, in addition to their regualr work. (This isn't meant to suggest that a lot of fine science teachers don't inspire their students, but how much more could be offered in addition by working scientists?) The value to be gained is in the long view:
- More kids exposed to more people pursuing their interests or passions in science
- A real opportunity to demonstrate that science at its core is a method and way of knowing and learning, and isn't required to be a threat to their religious convictions
- More kids retaining an interest in pursuing science
The value in the long view to the scientific community is more overall interest in supporting or participating in science. For example, Wesley Elsberry, PZ Myers, Icthyic and Ken Miller may not have produced as many new results while they was working with eighth-graders in the kids' biology classes last semester, but the long term impact they (and others) have on those students could mean that there may be more new Wesleys, PZs or Icthyics than otherwise.
At the very least, perhaps there's a more science-supportive next generation.
Probably unworkable and naive, but perhaps there's another way to find and quantify the value community involvement brings.
Edit: Fixed an annoying spelling error that I know I'm going to make every time if I'm not careful, and yet still managed to do it anyway.