The paradox of the word “scientist”.

We have been having a discussion here about the terms “scientist”, “professional”, and so on, and I have noticed a pretty clear polarity that verges on paradoxical:

Either the term “scientist” is defined so broadly that it is essentially meaningless, such that being called “scientist” carries no prestige, or else it is defined in a restricted but meaningful way that excludes and thus offends a great many people who want to be called “scientist” because of the attached prestige.

It reminds me of the old joke: “I would never want to join a club that would have me as a member”.

Your thoughts?

4 comments to The paradox of the word “scientist”.

  • Meh. I could discuss, but there’s science to be done. As long as someone deems my contributions as ‘valuable’ (and presumably, somebody must else I wouldn’t get any piece of their hard-earned grant money), I’m quite content with being called a scientist, or student, or in-training or whatever.
    Just let me hang out in a lab and not starve too much while doing it =D
    Definitions and reality seldom get along with each other… and we as biologists know that esapecially well.


    • And yet definitions can obviously cause some pretty heated reactions!


      • Definitions on the internet: SERIOUS FREAKING BUSINESS, ok? =P
        Your initial posts did come off a bit as “grad students don’t really do science” to those who don’t know you at all. Or to those seeking trouble (ie. avg internet denizen)


        • I guess… especially if one didn’t actually read my initial post, which said:

          Graduate students do most of the day-to-day research in science, no question. Many students are self-funded with scholarships (their stipend, anyway — not equipment or travel or reagents). A significant portion of them come up with quite independent research and get by with minimal guidance. I was one of those — I never received a paycheck from my adviser, I published several single-author papers, and I did not need regular supervision. But I was not a professional scientist at that time, I was a scientist in training.”



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