08 August 2008

International Science

This weekend we'll be celebrating the new citizenships of two of my coworkers. This is one of the things we mean when we talk about science being international. Science isn't some vapor that floats around the world, rather it is people sharing ideas all over world. And working together in many parts of the world. Some like their new locations enough to take citizenship there. So this weekend we'll be welcoming two coworkers to their new citizenship with some food, drink, and conversation. Perhaps rather a lot of conversation; you may have noticed that I'm a bit chatty. I'm not terribly unusual in this among my group, or scientists generally.

There's an important -- to having confidence in scientific results -- flip side represented by the distribution of scientists. If all scientists are wealthy northwest European men (which was nearly the case in the 1800s), then it wouldn't be too surprising for a particular idea to strike the fancy of them all for the same cultural reasons rather than being good science. Today, though, with scientists spread across every continent, from different ends of the economic spectrum (my going to college required the limit in loans, work study, summer jobs, etc., plus academic scholarships, not family wealth; while some good scientists still come from financial backgrounds like those 1800s folks), both men and women (not as many women in my area as I'd like, but my postdoctoral adviser was one and there are more now than 30 years ago), different races, religions, ethnic groups, political preferences, ... it's very hard for an idea to be shared across those different groups unless there's something to it. (Ok, yes, scientists are very prone to believing that science is interesting and a good way to study scientific problems. But that's not a scientific conclusion, it's an assumption.)

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