American scientists believe they face a challenging environment and the vast majority of them support the idea that participation in policy debates and engagement with citizens and journalists is necessary to further their work and careers.
A survey of 3,748 American-based scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) finds that 87% agree with the statement “Scientists should take an active role in public policy debates about issues related to science and technology.”Just 13% of these scientists back the opposite statement: “Scientists should focus on establishing sound scientific facts and stay out of public policy debates.”
This widely held view among scientists about active engagement combines with scientists’ perspectives on the relationship between science and society today in several ways:
- Most scientists see an interested public: 71% of AAAS scientists believe the public has either some or a lot of interest in their specialty area.
- Many scientists see debates over scientific research findings in the media:53% of AAAS scientists say there is a lot or some debate in the news about their field.
- A sizable share of scientists believe careers can be advanced by media coverage of their work and social media use: 43% of AAAS scientists say it is important or very important for scientists in their specialty to get coverage of their work in news media, up from 37% who said that in a 2009 survey. Some 22% described it as either “very important” (4%) or “important” (18%) for career advancement in their discipline to promote their findings on social media such as Facebook or Twitter. Still, a majority of AAAS scientists say it is not too or not at all important for career advancement to have their research covered in the news (56%), and 77% say it is not too or not at all important for career advancement to promote their findings on social media.
- At the same time, most scientists believe that science news coverage can pose problems for science: 79% of scientists believe it is a major problem for science that news reports don’t distinguish between well-founded and not well-founded scientific findings. Further, 52% of scientists say that simplification of scientific findings is a major problem for science in general.
The Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and exiled spiritual leader of Buddhism in Tibet, discussed his admiration for scientists and made some interesting remarks about emotional health during a recent speech at the National Institutes of Health.
The Dalai Lama was effusive in his praise for scientists. He said (and we quote): ‘I deeply admire my scientific friends’ (end of quote). The Dalai Lama pinpointed the open minded of scientists and what he described as a healthy skepticism about evidence and hyperbole. He also emphasized the capacity of scientists from around the world to work together and ignore differences in geography, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and social class.
The Dalai Lama noted these traits set scientists apart and provided an international, professional role model.
However, the Dalai Lama also said he found some scientists were unhappy despite their gifts and intelligence. He briefly discussed the lack of inner peace among scientists with a sense of humor rather than admonishment. The Dalai Lama’s infectious laugh and self-deprecating humor delighted many NIH staff members who packed an auditorium to hear him.
The Dalia Lama’s discussion about emotional inner peace led to broader remarks about the impact of maternal affection in the life long health of children. The Dalai Lama explained he was pleased that scientific evidence seemed consistent with his personal, long-standing observation of the vital role of maternal love and sincerity in the development of a child’s brain and emotional health.
Similarly, the Dalai Lama noted that he had long observed a perceived link between maternal affection, attention, and sincerity for their children and the development of life long compassion for others. He encouraged behavioral and other scientists to further assess the extent of this relationship.
The Dalai Lama also was moved by a series of drawings from young patients at NIH’s Children’s Inn and underscored his appreciation for the artists. Similarly, he praised a project he saw at NIH’s Clinical Center that seeks to restore the ability to walk for young persons with Cerebral Palsy.
In response to a question from NIH Director Francis Collins M.D., the Dalai Lama confessed he sometimes gets frustrated and irritated – and even occasionally loses his temper. For example, he explained he became angry once during an interview when a New York Times columnist asked him four times to describe his probable legacy. Although the Dalai Lama noted he believed he answered the question the first time, the story revealed even renowned spiritual leaders sometimes can get cross. It also deftly reminded the audience there always is room for improvement in how we manage our lives and work.
The Geological Society of America has recently published an eight page document explaining in some detail the five steps of the scientific method and an overview of what science is capable of.
While it seems to be a discussion aid in the evolution/intelligent design debate, it is a useful tool for any branch of science including medicine. The talking point section is a great summary.
The document entitled The Nature of Science and the Scientific Method may be found here.
- Scientific Method at Jeopardy? (orlisays.wordpress.com)
- Scientific Method (creationscience4kids.com)
Do Scientists Understand the Public?
He shared his perspective on how scientists engage the public and thoughts on how to improve mutual understanding. The Integrative Medicine Research Lecture series provides overviews of the current state of research and practice involving complementary and alternative medicine practices and approaches, and explores perspectives on the emerging discipline of integrative medicine.
***The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM) Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series provides overviews of the current state of research and practice involving complementary and alternative medicine practices and approaches, and explores perspectives on the emerging discipline of integrative medicine.