Archive for the ‘Scientific knowledge’ Category
The sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) is the study of science as a social activity, especially dealing with “the social conditions and effects of science, and with the social structures and processes of scientific activity.” The sociology of scientific ignorance (SSI) is complementary to the sociology of scientific knowledge. The sociology of knowledge, by contrast, focuses on the production of non-scientific ideas and social constructions. Sociologists of scientific knowledge study the development of a scientific field and attempt to identify points of contingency or interpretative flexibility where ambiguities are present. Such variations may be linked to a variety of political, historical, cultural or economic factors. Crucially, the field does not set out to promote relativism or to attack the scientific project; the aim of the researcher is to explain why one interpretation rather than another succeeds due to external social and historical circumstances.
The distinction between indigenous and Western/scientific knowledge can present problems for those who believe in the significance of indigenous knowledge for development. This article examines some of the contradictions and ironies involved in accenting the importance of indigenous knowledge, with a view to eliciting a dialogue on the subject. The last part of the article tentatively explores a number of possible ways out of the dilemma.
In the decades since the Second World War, the rhetoric of development has gone through several stages–from its focus on economic growth, to growth with equity, to basic needs, to participatory development, to sustainable development. Today indigenous knowledge is seen as pivotal above all in discussions on sustainable resource use and balanced development. This orientation is in stark contrast to the views of many earlier theorists, who saw traditional knowledge and institutions as obstacles to development. The focus on indigenous knowledge clearly heralds a long overdue move.
The increasing complexity of research requires scientists to work at the intersection of multiple fields and to face problems for which their formal education has not prepared them. For example, biologists with no or little background in programming are now often using complex scripts to handle the results from their experiments; vice versa, programmers wishing to enter the world of bioinformatics must know about biochemistry, genetics, and other fields.
In this context, communication tools such as mailing lists, web forums, and online communities acquire increasing importance. These tools permit scientists to quickly contact people skilled in a specialized field. A question posed properly to the right online scientific community can help in solving difficult problems, often faster than screening literature or writing to publication authors. The growth of active online scientific communities, such as those listed in Table S1, demonstrates how these tools are becoming an important source of support for an increasing number of researchers.
Nevertheless, making proper use of these resources is not easy. Adhering to the social norms of World Wide Web communication—loosely termed “netiquette”—is both important and non-trivial.
In this article, we take inspiration from our experience on Internet-shared scientific knowledge, and from similar documents such as “Asking the Questions the Smart Way” and “Getting Answers”, to provide guidelines and suggestions on how to use online communities to solve scientific problems.
Laura Rival argues that green economy must re-embed economics within the bounds of nature. A new type of economics is needed for this, one that is based on a combination of indigenous and scientific knowledge.
In this episode of Meet a Researcher, we talk to Dr Laura Rival, who is a lecturer in Anthropology and Development at the University of Oxford. Dr Rival is participating in the UNRISD conference Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social Dimension in October 2011 with a paper about ecological threats, new promises of sustainability and the evolving political economy of land use change in rural Latin America.
Why do we seem to be witnessing an increasing number of nasty technological surprises? Indeed, this year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have taken their place alongside older problems, such as ozone depletion. We believe that the way in which scientific advice is developed and communicated lies at the heart of the question.
A recently published book, Everything is Obvious, Once You Know the Answer, by Duncan J. Watts (Crown, March 2011) does a good job of demonstrating the downside of common sense, but also showing how people are often ahead of the experts and gurus. Watts, professor of sociology at Columbia University and principal research scientist at Yahoo, does this to particular effect in his debunking of Malcolm Gladwell’s notions of influence, tipping points, and social networks.
Watts argues that people’s ”common sense”–which he defines as knowledge of the social rules–equips them to make short-term decisions, like where to sit in a crowded subway. But when it comes to complex social phenomena, like marketing campaigns, common sense isn’t enough.
Read also: Everything Is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer
Knowledge, Networks and Nations reviews, based on available data, the changing patterns of science, and scientific collaboration, in order to provide a basis for understanding such ongoing changes. It aims to identify the opportunities and benefits of international collaboration, to consider how they can best be realised, and to initiate a debate on how international scientific collaboration can be harnessed to tackle global problems more effectively.
In Lessig’s presentation to CERN – The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge – he addresses the insanity (immoral) aspects of today’s knowledge-blocked publishing system. I think even the staunchest capitalist to the most devoted socialist can agree that the system of knowledge access fostered by closed journals is antithetical to research, health of science, and knowledge growth. It’s an outstanding presentation. Take the 50 minutes needed to watch it…