What do scientists think about while they're hunched over microscopes for hours on end? Hear from four scholars examining the growing field of “science studies":
By Danny LaChance
Scientists are a motley bunch. But one thing they all seem to share is a tendency to cringe when they come across the stock image of the scientist in a white lab coat, pipette in hand, hunched over rows of test tubes, unaffected by personal relationships, ethical quagmires, or funding crises.
Such images perpetuate a myth about science—that its natural habitat is a sleek, sterile laboratory, beyond the messy realm of everyday life. In truth, the division between the laboratory and the real world is much more transparent. Scientists are just like the rest of us: they vote, fall in love, pay bills, and fret about jobs and relationships.
Despite the image of science as a separate arena from culture, politics, and social and economic pressures, such forces infiltrate the laboratory all the same. In an effort to better understand this interaction, a number of CLA faculty are examining how human factors—our values, beliefs, and assumptions—affect scientific outcomes.
Their work, part of the growing field of “science studies," is changing how we think about science and scientists. Read on to learn how four of our own are dismantling the scientific mystique—and what they're putting in its place.