Studying the science of science | Science | AAAS
Fang is among a small yet tenacious group of scientists who study the culture of academic science alongside their other lines of research. These projects offer few quantifiable career benefits, such as grants, awards, or promotions. Nonetheless, scientists who take on this work say that these projects can lead to acquiring new skills and knowledge that help them in their roles as researchers. The real motivation, though, as well as the potential reward, lies in a desire to improve the culture of the scientific community.
Fri Jun 24 05:07:08 2016 - permalink -
Clancy is currently working on several follow-ups to the SAFE study and has also published a paper about the importance of discussing race and identity in the social sciences.
Clancy was also predisposed to think beyond her core research. Her experience as a labor and women’s rights activist during her graduate school years convinced her that, if she were to continue along the academic track, she needed to do it “the right way,” she says. That way, she believes, requires being reflective. “I’m not just going to do research as a scientist; I’m also going to do critical research on science,” she says.
The results from these types of metascience research projects have the power to improve the culture and practice of science. Recognition of the barriers faced by scientists from underrepresented groups can inform programs designed to recruit and retain those scientists; understanding the prevalence and impact of deceitful research can lead to more effective policies to prevent them. So, if weighing in on issues of the day is an important part of being a scientist, then why aren’t more scientists doing it?
Now that he is applying to tenure-track faculty positions, Yoder has thought carefully about how his metascience work fits in with the other aspects of his career. His LGBTQA work informs his teaching and mentoring, he says, and shows his dedication to improving diversity in science. But he recognizes that everyone may not see it that way, and he is prepared to encounter institutions that don’t appreciate the full range of his research.
Metascientists also flout another common norm: that “good” scientists shy away from the limelight. For better or worse, metascience research often receives widespread attention not only among scientists, but also among media and the general public. “The brighter you shine in the public eye, the more disdainfully your colleagues may look upon you,” Clancy explains,
When the “Sagan Effect” strikes scientists popular to the general public, they are perceived by their colleagues as less serious, and their work is seen as less rigorous.
“Unfortunately, many of my colleagues don’t see this research as research,” she says. “People think of me as an activist instead of a scholar, instead of realizing those are intricately entwined.”
She has been approached to collaborate on further sexual harassment and assault research, but not her other lines of research. “I thought gaining some level of notoriety for [the SAFE paper] would make it so that people would reach out to me or want to collaborate with me on my other research as well, but that hasn’t happened.”
Because this research often stirs criticism, practitioners must have a thick skin and clear sense of purpose.
ang says that he has encountered pushback from colleagues who believe that work that is critical of the scientific process gives ammunition to science deniers.
Still, aspiring metascientists should be aware of the potential consequences and prepare accordingly.
. Plus, they generally receive no additional funding to investigate these questions. Rather, these projects are labors of love that some scientists choose to make time for. “I guess that’s what nights and weekends are for,” Fang says of his metascience research.
. The process of finding metascience collaborators, like the projects themselves, is often a mix of serendipity and shared passion.
“If you don’t act as the person you want to be your whole life from the beginning, waiting until you’ve jumped through this particular hoop isn’t suddenly going to turn you into a different person,” she says. “What was more scary to me was, ‘I’ll just wait until I have tenure to do XYZ.’ As a labor organizer, I met a lot of faculty who said that, and when they got tenure, they didn’t change.”
At its root, metascience represents the purest form of scientific inquiry: digging deeply into a problem out of pure curiosity. “Being a scientist is, at the most fundamental level, about being able to study what’s exciting to you,” says Yoder. “If you see something like this and you know how to follow up on it, you should do that.”