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John.cummings
04-23-1993, 07:16 AM
What is good science?

First, does this question refer to the ends or the means? Is the systematic
development of thermonuclear and CBE weapons, conducted according to all of
the rules of the 'scientific method' good science? Is science that finds a
cure for cancer any better than science that studies the reproductive cycle of
a certain species of tree frogs? Was alchemy good science in its time? Who
is qualified to judge the merit of either the ends or the means?

We are essentially a closed community. Fellow scientists, usually members of
the same sub-sub-subfield that we specialize in, determine what studies get
funded, decide what studies get published, are consumers of our final product
(papers), and train the next generation of investigators.

It is similar to automakers determining the design and specifications,
deciding how many of which models get built, buying all of their production
themselves, and training the next generation of automotive engineers. Would
they produce good cars?

No market drives us. We may 'compete' with other sciences and social
programs to get more funding for our field from our governments. But in the
end more money for science in general is more money for our field. This
doesn't answer the question if either science or automobiles are 'good'.

Another example is a major corporation publishing an annual report that says
'we've audited our books ourselves and we've had a great year'. Would you
believe them and buy their stock, or would you trust only independent
auditors?

There is no market for science and no independent auditors of science. We are
the defendants, prosecutors, judge, and jury. I think we'll find in our
favor.


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John Cummings
University of Cincinnati
JOHN.CUMMINGS@UC.EDU
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