Richard Gallagher on drone factories

"If, as seems likely, university science departments are churning out technically sophisticated but intellectually stunted drones that don't understand the underpinnings of science, then urgent reforms to the curriculum are required because such people aren't really scientists at all"

- Richard Gallagher, writing in The Scientist

In this month's issue of The Scientist, editor Gallagher points to research described by James Williams in the same issue suggesting that many science graduates "don't have a clue" about what science really is, being unable to define concepts such as 'fact', 'law' and 'hypothesis'. While Gallagher assumes that students heading for research posts in graduate school will rectify these deficiencies by absorbing the necessary philosophy through practice, those destined for teaching pose more of a worry. A solution Williams favors is the mandatory teaching of the history and philosophy of science to all undergraduate science students.

Gallagher is also concerned about what he sees as a coarsening of discourse amongst scientists themselves (especially online), in which principles such as logic, objectivity and caution give way to emotion, vitriol and inappropriate certainty. But "[i]ntegrity, humility and respect layered on top of [their] necessary skepticism will encourage open dialog and creativity, and provide a solid foundation upon which to persuade the rest of the world about the validity of science."

You can read the Editorial, and the associated article by James Williams, for free after registering with The Scientist.