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Who is hiding in the broad strokes?

  • #1
    Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 47,691 mod cyberwolf77


    They say the devil is in the details, so who covers the coarse outlines? My real question is, has the time of acquiring a broad base of knowledge within a field passed and now we enter the age of the narrow specialist? Gone are the days when a single doctor handled all your medical needs, or a lone individual building a home from the ground up. So, has science also reached this point, and if so is that a bad thing?


Comments



  • An interesting question. I definitely seem to see that people want more specialists, while expecting them to be able to do generalist things. If you say you're interested in general science, you get frowned at, while simultaneously praised for being able to talk to researchers outside your field.




  • Was talking with a fellow researcher yesterday at coffee and he said something similar to what you are suggesting here wolf. Long gone are the Renaissance men or women who could research and publish across several disciplines (e.g., Max Weber). Even within your own discipline you must specialise just to keep up with the rapid changes in technologies and discoveries. And in terms of tenure and promotion at university, "publish or perish" specialisation is a given.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    Was talking with a fellow researcher yesterday at coffee and he said something similar to what you are suggesting here wolf. Long gone are the Renaissance men or women who could research and publish across several disciplines (e.g., Max Weber). Even within your own discipline you must specialise just to keep up with the rapid changes in technologies and discoveries. And in terms of tenure and promotion at university, "publish or perish" specialisation is a given.

    In other words academia has moved to model which rewards specialist of generalist. Alas poor Jack, we hardly knew you.




  • Donald Hayes (1992) in The Growing Inaccessibility of Science, Nature, Vol. 356, pp. 739-740, suggested that today's "research papers are written for specialists," which makes "tough reading for nonspecialists." For example, during its first 78 years, from 1869 to 1947, it was not necessary to be trained in science to read and understand articles appearing in Nature. Since 1947 research articles have become more specialized, esoteric, and harder to read and understand for outsiders each successive decade.




  • Even earlier natural history was being specialized into so many fields, some of which broke down even more as time passed
    (zoology-too many to list, botany-anthecology). Oh, what a slippery slope it has been


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  • In medicine for example, increasing specialisation has lead to even further immersion of professionals into the knowledge and culture of their own professional group, and these increasingly specialised groups pose barriers between specialised groups. See Pippa Hall (2009), Interprofessional teamwork: Professional cultures as barriers, Journal of Interprofessional Care, Vol. 19, Supplement 1, 188-196.




  • How long will it be until a chemist can't even find common reference with a physicist? Their fields will be so specialized they won't have common references anymore.




  • Communities of practice have been one solution to the problems associated with increasing specialisation. A rather fluid association of highly diverse keepers of esoteric knowledge and skills socially network with each other, and occasionally come together to forum research teams. They handle different sorts of problems, with the team composition varying in accordance with the needs of the research. They temporarily exhibit legitimate peripheral participation until the project has been completed, working in labs, or at home, or in coffeeshops, etc. Upon project completion they disperse, but remain in social contact until a unique combination is needed for yet another research project.

    I've been a member of such a research community of practice in recent years, often but not always associated with university, sometimes included or excluded from various funded projects depending if I had the requisite knowledge and skills. My time has been project driven, not time clock monitored, where I might be required to work 24/7 until my part was completed and handed-off. Fortunately I have been included in enough research teams to pay the bills, but not having a secure 8 to 5 employer, there has always been the specter of feast or famine on the occupational horizon.

    If you are interested in this potential solution to increasing specialisation and methods to overcoming the barriers see Communities of Practice : Critical Perspectives (2007), Jason Hughes, Nick Jewson, and Lorna Unwin, Eds. London: Routledge.




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    Communities of practice have been one solution to the problems associated with increasing specialisation. A rather fluid association of highly diverse keepers of esoteric knowledge and skills socially network with each other, and occasionally come together to forum research teams. They handle different sorts of problems, with the team composition varying in accordance with the needs of the research. They temporarily exhibit legitimate peripheral participation until the project has been completed, working in labs, or at home, or in coffeeshops, etc. Upon project completion they disperse, but remain in social contact until a unique combination is needed for yet another research project.

    I've been a member of such a research community of practice in recent years, often but not always associated with university, sometimes included or excluded from various funded projects depending if I had the requisite knowledge and skills. My time has been project driven, not time clock monitored, where I might be required to work 24/7 until my part was completed and handed-off. Fortunately I have been included in enough research teams to pay the bills, but not having a secure 8 to 5 employer, there has always been the specter of feast or famine on the occupational horizon.

    If you are interested in this potential solution to increasing specialisation and methods to overcoming the barriers see Communities of Practice : Critical Perspectives (2007), Jason Hughes, Nick Jewson, and Lorna Unwin, Eds. London: Routledge.

    Just realized this sounds like Lego: Researcher edition


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