Tuesday, January 23, 2007

lawnscience question #2

Today's lawnscience question is a more general one, though one that comes up over and over again in the science policy literature: What duties do researchers have to focus their attention on issues that society considers pressing? The alternative is to look more at issues that either the researcher herself feels are important, interesting, or necessary (i.e., the "pure science" question) or the researcher's funders feel are important, interesting, or necessary. Philip Kitcher tackles this problem in Science, Truth, and Democracy, and tries to come up with a workable and principled medium, but I'm interested in seeing what people think in general.


jeremy said...

How would you go about finding out what society considers pressing? Maybe there could be a show that winnows down research topics like American Idol. Although, I suspect the voters who would participate in that show wouldn't be a very representative cross-section of society, which leads back to the problem of how one finds out what society considers pressing.

steph::.... said...

That's definitely one of the problems, innit? How to go about evaluating "societal needs/desires"? Or would it go back to the researcher to figure that out for herself, and if so, how to distinguish between that and what the researcher herself desires?