The discussion about the definition of “professional scientist” has been interesting, with a range of opinions shown. But this raises the question — what criteria make someone a “scientist”, or even a “professional scientist” if such a distinction is necessary?
Here are the criteria I threw out off-handedly for the purpose of discussing the NYT story about science blogs:
- Does scientific research for a living,
- Publishes research in peer-reviewed journals,
- Is funded by granting agencies to do it,
- Does not just write about it, or study it, or do some of it as a grad student, or only teach it.
This wasn’t an official or proposed definition, as indicated by the qualifier “For the purpose of this post”. Others have raised objections to one or more of these. I don’t think they are all necessary and certainly none is sufficient. So, let’s go through the exercise and think of some criteria that would distinguish a “professional scientist”. Nowhere in here is there an implication that graduate students, industry scientists, government scientists, postdocs, or anyone else doesn’t “do science” when they are engaged in research, so let’s get beyond that straw man if we can.
As I noted in the last post, lots of people want to be called “scientist”, presumably because it carries some prestige. But if anyone who does an experiment is a “scientist”, then the term isn’t meaningful at all.
So, assuming that we want the term to mean something, what makes someone a scientist?
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