Scientists know a lot about many different subjects, says Janet Stemwedel at the Doing Good Science blog at Scientific American. Since science can be used to make decisions that affect individuals and society, it's important for non-scientists to listen to the people who "are presumed to have the expertise to sort reliable knowledge claims from snake oil," she says. But it's also important to know that not all scientists are experts on every subject, she adds, and asks whether there is "enough of a common core between different areas of science that scientists trained in one area can be trusted to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of work in another scientific area." In her own capacity as a researcher, Stemwedel says she is comfortable calling herself qualified to speak on several different topics, but that even with all of her expertise, she acknowledges that there are things she doesn't know. "Knowing how far the tether of your expertise extends is part of being a responsible scientist," she says.
What Scientists Know, and What They Don't
Sep 29, 2011