Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal reminds us that the public at large believes in the results of science based on their trust in scientists and, quite often, those that communicate the science.
The comic also shows how hazardous it can be to abuse that trust. This is why efforts to hold the institutions through which we do science accountable – like Retraction Watch, Rep. Speier’s HR6161, SAFE, critiquing of the publish-or-perish system, p-hacking, journal profiteering, and embargo abuse – are vital. It needs to be clear in public forums that we take that trust seriously and are more committed to protecting the integrity of the practice of science than to protecting individuals who violate that trust to maintain an illusion.
Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
It’s not often that you find a number of online comments on a scientific journal’s website. It’s even rarer to discover something that is bordering on a scientist flame war (complete with requests for evidence!). Colin Macilwain asserts in a recent editorial in Nature that he thinks programs to encourage STEM education are a spectacular waste of money. Now this particular stance is already going to incite some backlash. He says that all the overlapping programs are wasting money and that making more scientists will just depress wages by flooding the market.
What ensues in the comments section is a debate over whether increasing scientific literacy for all is important in today’s society and whether there is truly a shortage of qualified scientists to fill open positions. I was excited to see so many scientists engaged in discussion of STEM policy and with well articulated opinions on the subject. Not everyone agrees on the ultimate goal of STEM education, whether it be to raise the level of science literacy universally or to increase the number of students who go on to careers in science. As it is, there is a glut of biologists who are struggling to find employment, though I think fields like computer science may not be experiencing the same problems. I personally, don’t agree with Macilwain, but I think more scientists should be thinking about science and society and participating in the discussion. Science literacy for all!