Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who is a Scientist?

i don't know.

To most people I would guess that this seems like a simple question and they would answer "A Scientist is of course, someone who went to graduate school and performs Science as a job." Yeah, sometimes I want to take that stance also. The problem is that I know that it is probably not true.

I grew up in the 90s and early 2000s computer hacking scene(I know I always say this) and if someone were to ask, "What is a computer programmer.developer?" I would have probably answered "Someone who programs in a complex programming language and has written a program or been involved in a project that consisted of thousands of lines of codes." What that means is that everyone can be a developer if they know how to code and do code. That was me. Of course there were lots of things I missed in programming because I never went to school for it and suffer for it now in my coding(why I always encourage people who are really excited about Science to goto Graduate School). Still I could hang with the best of them evidenced by Motorola hiring me. Someone writing a chapter in a book about a program I wrote. &c.

Is this a good analogy for a Scientist though?
One can program without knowing much math or even about how a computer works. It is almost self-contained. Science is NOT! One problem I run into alot with non-trained DIY Science Enthusiasts is that they lack some of the basic knowledge and skills that would allow them to do significant experiments. Sure, I understand DIY Enthusiasts are not all out to do significant experiments. I also understand that I can change this by providing people with knowledge and tutorials on how to do Science and I do ( Yeah, so this issue can be overcome. (No thanks, to the DIY zine Biocoder who rejected my tutorial on computational protein science? I know, it's my fault, I suck at writing).

So what's the problem? Why does it matter?

I think it matters because the people who are providing Scientific knowledge and training to others, sometimes as mass media, do not have the proper knowledge and skills to evaluate what is good Science and what is not. They sometimes don't even know Science well enough to understand that the statements they make are unScientific. Did you know Bill Nye was never a Scientist or trained as one? He has a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering. That's it. And somehow this man has become the voice for the Scientific world on things like Global Warming... But I am sure he has studied the data thoroughly........... for years....

This is a huge example, so imagine how bad it is as you go down the ladder. People who are considered leaders in the DIY Biology community know little to nothing about actual Science or what is possible (No we can't stick a Monkey's head on a human body, sorry). And they pretend like they can "train" people. And it doesn't seem like trained Scientists really want to be involved. Why not? I guess they don't see the advantage? And they think that DIY Scientists can't really do much (which is kind of true at the moment).

To me I want to be inclusive. Sometimes I want to say, someone who is excited about Science and performs experiments is a Scientist (which is more than I can say for many Graduate Students and Post Docs ROFLMao......) And maybe that is the answer. But because "Scientist" is a title, it denotes some exclusivity. Someone who enjoys playing basketball is not considered a "Basketball Player". Just as someone who transformed bacteria with GFP once is not a Synthetic Biologist...

It is a fight between logic and ego and all those random Science pictures that go around the internet that try and convince people that something amazing is going to come by using a Drosophila eye as a model for the human belly button.

Just because you read Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine doesn't make you a Medical Doctor(in fact if you called yourself one you could probably be taken to jail?). But anyone who has a slight interest in Science can be considered it's voice...

I am still at the same place where I began.

Who is Scientist?

i don't know. are you one?