Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, Karl D. Collins took care of the December column for us. Sorry that we’re a little late (again) posting it on here…
From pesky biochemists winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to the social construction of scientific ideas. Is it all just a matter of perspective?
Considering the time of year, it would be rude not to mention this year’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka. Being awarded the prize “for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors” resulted in a tedious furore owing to the awarding of the prize to biochemists. The usual heavyweights of the blogosphere have done their part deriding these banalities, though I particularly enjoyed John’s article at ‘It’s The Rheo Thing’, highlighting the ‘impurity’ of two of the world’s leading ‘chemistry’ journals.
The role of society in science, although not a new concept (I would say one as old as science itself), is one that is increasingly developing in importance. For example, society’s perception of genetically modified food has had widespread consequences for its development, production and distribution worldwide. Two pieces relating to this boiling pot of anguish have recently caught my attention, one by science-policy academic Jack Stilgoe of Responsible Innovation who in response to an article on the Rothamsted protests highlights the dangers of unstructured and polarized debate on such ethical dynamite; and a second by Michael Eisen of ‘it is NOT junk’ challenging the basis of “Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified foods” in the USA.
Finally, academic Alice Bell, of ‘through the looking glass’, writes an intriguing piece on the social construction of science, challenging the perception (presumably of ‘scientists’) that describing science as a social construct is negative. Bell writes “Saying science is a social construction does not amount to saying science is make believe” and continues to discuss the ‘social construction’ of St Paul’s, CERN and scientific ideas.