The Scientist recently ran this article describing what appears to be a decline in physician-scientists. These are people who are trained both as an M.D. and a Ph.D. (usually in a biomedical field) and manage to both conduct research and practice medicine. It’s a particularly useful group of individuals because it can make translating research results into practical guidance and knowledge an easier process. As the author of The Vanishing Physician-Scientist? says:
“Physician-scientists [are] completely indispensible to the medical research enterprise because they bring to medical research the unique perspective of asking scientific questions based on their direct experience with patients. So I don’t think our society can afford to lose physician-scientists.”
I don’t want to engage with the merits of the piece (since I have no complaints), but to ask what fields could also benefit from the kind of practitioner-researcher reflected by a physician-scientist? In what fields is there a need for better understanding by researchers of the types of questions that people in that field ask and answer? In many fields there isn’t much of a gap between researchers and practitioners, or the gap is one of commercialization – where the challenge is making something profitable out of the research rather than trying to understand how the knowledge could work for them.
You might guess my candidate field for a scientist-hyphenate – science and technology policy.