[asa] Role of research scientist

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Date: Tue Feb 27 2007 - 21:39:44 EST

Now that I've finally been able to work through the last ten days of notes on this list, I find myself in quite a quandary. There were so many good notes and so many topics I'd love to reply to that it just wouldn't be physically possible. Maybe I'll get a chance in the future. But for now let me inject something else in the discussion.

Offlist, Johnny Lin sent me several links that I found very interesting. One was http://www.issues.org/13.1/jasano.htm by Sheila Jasanoff based on a talk in 1995. She correctly identifies the importance of trust and community in the dialog between science and the public. This takes me back to Rich's comment that a key role for ASA should be building that sense of trust between the scientific community and the (esp. Christian) public. I'm still looking for ideas of how we could do this.

He also sent me a copy of an outstanding article that I believe is very thoughtful and helpful. It is by Thomas J Mills and Roger N Clark, "Roles of Research Scientists in Natural Resource Decision-Making" published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, Vol 153 (2001) pp. 189-198. I can't seem to find it online and it's too long to copy and I don't know how to attach it for this list. But if you have it in your library, it's worth digging out. Though they focus on forest management as the key example, their comments apply to the broader situation and I think are very relevant to the discussion we were having on climatology.

Mills and Clark list a number of "propositions" for both researchers and decision makers Here's one for researchers:
"Research scientists must be prepared to respond to harsh critiques and attacks meant to undermine their credibility or to challenge their work. In cases with which we are familiar, research scientists have been attacked both professionally and personally, evidently in an attempt to undermine the credibility of their work because of its implications for the policy outcome. One of the best ways to cope with this scrutiny is to stay in the science role using time-tested strategies.. If someone wants to debate the science, they must play by the rules of science, using peer reviewed information, clearly stated assumptions, and rationale. This often reveals that the debate is not about science information at all but about different value positions."

I think this is particularly true in areas of science and Christian faith. It's so easy to move the debate outside the realm of "the rules of science" when we don't like the conclusions or implications of mainstream science. We would even prefer to change the rules of science to make a better fit. Perhaps it would be much better to humbly admit we don't know how to reconcile the two rather than distort either the theology or the science to forcefit concordance.




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Received on Tue Feb 27 21:40:46 2007

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