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real scientists

AC Missias acm at pharmdec.wustl.edu
Tue Aug 30 09:52:38 EST 1994


In article <33qfvn$6ht at agate.berkeley.edu>
lmk2 at garnet.berkeley.edu (Leslie Kay) writes:

> >I like Leslie Kay's question:  what is a _real_ scientist?  In trying to
> >come with an answer, I keep coming back to another question:
> >What is at stake there?  What does one get for being recognized as a
> >_real_ scientist -- and who IS it that gets to say who a _real_
> >scientist is?
> 
> It seems that society removes itself from "real" science to answer
> many of these questions.  The three questions all have to do with
> being "accepted" as a real scientist.  I remember _way_ back in
> elementary school, when we learned that a scientist follows the
> scientific method,....
[snip]

I think that part of the trick is that what we are taught/would like to
believe defines a "real" scientist as we are starting out is somewhat
different from the criteria that are used to pinpoint the "real
scientists" later.  By this I mean that using the Scientific Method is
important (sine qua non), but that along the line issues like apparent
devotion, hours spent in lab and sacrifices made, "coolness" of
research, etc. begin to define "reality" for the scientific peer group
-- completely different from society's expectations, and more important
for advancement, career self-esteem, and possibly funding.  "Real
scientist" becomes, like "real man", an undefined but powerful standard
of judgement for self and others.

I like the statement made by a couple people that being truly
"scientific" is more a mentality or approach to knowledge than merely a
way of working in a lab.  However, I still feel that "real scientist",
as usually used (almost as a challenge) is a much more loaded term.
                         



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