Protest Rhetoric and Science and Technology

I’ve seen just a couple instances of what I’m about to discuss, so I don’t think there’s a problem.  Maybe just some anecdotes worth using to prompt a larger discussion.

Two posts, fair alike in website stature, in fair blogosphere we make our comparison.  First, a thoughtful opinion piece on how biomedical research can benefit from closer contact and collaboration with citizen scientists (something environmental researchers and epidemiologists have struggled with for years).  Second, another attempt to struggle with the grand goals and paltry resources of federally supported scientific research.

I write about them for their titles, which may not be the fault of the authors.

Opinion: Occupy Science?
Science Is the 99 Percent

I have a hard time, even after repeated readings, seeing the link between the content of each post and the theme(s) suggested by their headlines.  Given the specialized nature of the publications, I think it unlikely (but not impossible) that someone would try and make an issue out of the titles – that science (or scientists) need to wage a comparable protest to those of the Occupy movements.

That’s not to say that science and technology are immune from similar concerns of elites gathering a disproportionate amount of the benefits, while the bulk of society gets the lion’s share of the risks/harms.  The lack of attention or consideration of non-elites and science and technology has been a consistent critical theme of the last half of the 20th century.  And if you consider just the ‘world’ of scientists and engineers, there is the Matthew Effect.  That is a sociological phenomenon where those with resources have a better chance of gaining additional resources, and those without have a reduced chance.  Robert Merton connected the Matthew Effect to science.

Could there be cause for the post-docs of the world to mass major protests?  Sure.  The same could be said of researchers from smaller schools, NIH researchers facing increasing times to their first major individual grant, and others.  But you won’t find them in either of these posts.  Their titles shouldn’t imply otherwise.