25 January 2011

In which ivory towers are polished

In the UK, the BBC Two show Horizon had a show on called, “Science Under Attack.” Judging from the response of the Free Radicals blog, it showed why science is under attack in ways that they probably didn’t intend.

This is the bit that stuck in my head all day (emphasis added):

Luckily, there are other white-haired white male scientists to share the pain of not being understood. Phil Jones, for instance, the man who refused to deal with a co-ordinated set of Freedom of Information requests from climate deniers (designed as a bureaucratic Denial of Service attack) and set the whole climategate scandal in motion. “I wish people would read the peer-reviewed literature,” Jones sighs. No, really, he said that. Out of touch with the general public? Us?

My jaw may have dropped when I read that.

People are busy! They have jobs, bills, small and large children, pets, hobbies... and you’re seriously asking them to read some of the technical and specialized writing in the world on the newest research findings on journals that are so expensive that only large universities cough up their subscription fees?

There is a reason that science became a specialized profession. People are expecting us scientists to read primary literature so they don’t have to.

If you were asked to provide an example of what “ivory tower” means, you couldn’t find a much better example than that quote.

And that is one reason why science is under attack.

1 comment:

Michael Bok said...

That is a bit depressing. Luckily, the next generation of scientists already seem to be much more interested in communicating with the public.