Archive for the ‘Scientists’ Category
The recent revelation that the National Security Agency collects the personal data of United States citizens, allies and enemies alike has broken the traditional model governing the bond between science and society. Most breakthrough technologies have dual uses. Think of atomic energy and the nuclear bomb or genetic engineering and biological weapons.
Let’s face it: Powered by the right type of Big Data, data mining is a weapon. It can be just as harmful, with long-term toxicity, as an atomic bomb. It poisonstrust, straining everything from human relations to political alliances and free trade. And when it is a weapon, it should be treated like a weapon.
To repair the damage already done, we researchers, with a keen understanding of the promise and the limits of our trade, must work for a world that uses science in an ethical manner. We can look at the three pillars of nuclear nonproliferation as a model for going forward. We can achieve this only in alliance with the society at large, together amending universal human rights with the right to data ownership and the right of safe passage. If we scientists stay silent, we all risk becoming digitally enslaved.
Taking the plunge into public engagement can be a bit like joining a party in a new neighbourhood. Introduce yourself graciously, listen to the people you are talking with, relax into the event, and soon you’ll be having conversations you never expected. Why do it at all, though? Talk to scientists who have done it and the motives, and the benefits they saw, vary. Professor Geraint Rees of UCL’s Institute of Neuroscience, simply sees it as a natural thing to do. “I’m a great believer that science doesn’t exist unless it is communicated. Engaging with the public is an extension of normal scholarly activity.” For Rees, because public engagement “forces you to communicate in a clear way, and really think about what you are trying to say. You get feedback. People come up with surprising ideas. It all contributes to my overall research direction”.
Before any appreciation of the ability of science to improve society or knowledge of the power of the scientific method, there is the undiluted thrill of trying to understand the world that surrounds us. As children we constantly ask “how” and “why”, and scientists are those individuals who never grow out of the habit. Also like children, scientists are sustained by the dogged hope that, eventually, those questions will be answered. Hope is built upon optimism, enthusiasm and perhaps a certain level of naivety. These are personality traits we seldom link to a successful career in science, yet I would argue that they play an important and, in some cases, a vital role in sustaining scientific enquiry.
ORCID is an open, non-profit, community-based effort to create and maintain a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers. ORCID is unique in its ability to reach across disciplines, research sectors, and national boundaries and in its cooperation with other identifier systems. ORCID works with the research community to identify opportunities for integrating ORCID identifiers in key workflows, such as research profile maintenance, manuscript submissions, grant applications, and patent applications.
ORCID provides two core functions: (1) a registry to obtain a unique identifier and manage a record of activities, and (2) APIs that support system-to-system communication and authentication. ORCID makes its code available under an open source license, and will post an annual public data file under a CCO waiver for free download.
Today’s shifting R&D landscape, while vastly different from the days of such early pioneers as da Vinci and Newton, shows that migration of scientific talent, both into and out of the country, ultimately generates the fresh ideas that lead to innovative, high impact, scientific outcomes. While a rising Asia—namely India, South Korea, and especially China—is gaining traction as an emerging research power, the United States still leads the world in measures of scientific impact by a substantial margin. This is partly due to America also remaining by far the leading destination for research scientists emigrating from other countries. Researchers in the European Union (EU) typically migrate within other EU member countries, but do so at higher rates than APAC (Asia/Pacific) or US researchers. On a per capita basis, Northern EU countries are extremely productive contributors of high quality papers.
Every year for more than a decade, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman has been asking the era’s greatest thinkers a single annual question, designed to illuminate some important aspect of how we understand the world. In 2010, he asked how the Internet is changing the way we think. In 2011, with the help of psycholinguist Steven Pinker and legendary psychologist Daniel Kahneman, he posed an even grander question: What scientific concept will improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? The answers, featuring a wealth of influential scientists, authors, and thought-architects, were recently released in This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking – a formidable anthology of short essays by 151 of our time’s biggest thinkers on subjects as diverse as the power of networks, cognitive humility, the paradoxes of daydreaming, information flow, collective intelligence, and a dizzying, mind-expanding range in between. Together, they construct a powerful toolkit of meta-cognition — a new way to think about thinking itself.
Nancy J. Nersessian‘s research is driven by the question “How do scientists think?” Nersessian’s research focuses on how the cognitive and learning practices of scientists and engineers lead to creative and innovative outcomes. She is a Regents’ Professor of Cognitive Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology with joint appointments in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts School of Public Policy and the College of Computing School of Interactive Computing.
Her research supports the insight that scientists think not only with ideas, but also with the artifacts they create to investigate nature. Nersessian is one of the pioneers of the interdisciplinary field of cognitive studies of science and technology, which comprises psychologists, philosophers of science, artificial intelligence researchers and cognitive anthropologists.