The Search for a True Scientist in Big Science

Essay by encephalitisUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2004

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One of the original conundrums suggested in class was on a proper definition of a scientist. A scientist is no longer the "long haired genius, mouldering in an attic or basement workshop, despised by society as nonconformist, existing in a state of near poverty, motivated by the flame burning within him. " Derek Price and John Ziman explain in their essays the transition which science has taken to become "Big Science". There are more scientists alive today than ever in history leading to a rate of "productivity" which is unprecedented. Science has become a multibillion-dollar "commerce"; a leap from what was once merely an intellectual exercise.

In the past the scientific community was in essence a self-contained and self run body. The decisions had been relatively decentralized since the leadership for each discipline largely controlled its own funds. The introduction of "Big Science" has drastically changed this model.

The ever escalating costs of scientific research and the progression into a technological driven economy has led to an increasing dependence on the scientific community upon federal financial support and therefore into the jurisdiction of federal bureaucracy. Scientist no longer answers only to its peers but to the polity whom its funds are derived from and those whom it represents.

The evolution of how science operates has necessitated a changing role for the scientist to meet new demands. Multiple sources concur a scientist is "one having expert knowledge of one or more sciences, especially a natural or physical science. " This limited definition although doesn't describe the activities and requirements of a scientist, no longer able to solely concentrate on dabbling into systematic knowledge . Science has become integrated in varying degrees into our social construct. Either it be in the latest gadget in the kitchen, revolutionary medicines, defence of...