Andrew R. Marks
Submitter: Abd H Mat Sain | email@example.com
Advanced Medical and Dental Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Penang, Malaysia
Published September 19, 2003
Sir- It is with great enjoyment and a sense of continuing educational experience in reading many articles attempting to relate science and society (1). This section of a highly scientific journal enriches that experience especially so when the technical details were described in a more general sense (2). The implicit attraction of many if not most of these essays are their relevance to a wider social audience and also the common descriptive language used in their deliveries. These aspects are common denominators for people of diverse educational backgrounds and life experiences to comprehend one another . Engaging on the platforms of common denominators is important to ensure inclusive seamless public participation in debates of any topic including that of the sciences.
Engaging in commonalities when discussing issues of public importance and relevance is essential in this era of specialization of knowledge and professions. It is a thoroughly modern social phenomenon that people’s educational processes and their subsequent professions follow the narrow route of specialization and sub-specialization over time. This fragmentation process of knowledge and division of work are the results of overt economic expediency as much as the pressure within the discipline itself to specialize. Although there has been recent budding trend in approaching knowledge in a more composite and integrative manner(3), the ongoing paradigm of specialization is not going to abate for a long time to come.
One aspect of specialization that seems to justify this process is the technicalization of the wealth and depth of knowledge. This technicalization is most prominent in the sciences. The inherent technicalities and the unavoidable abstraction of concepts in the sciences have made them the most difficult of subjects to grasp at all level of educational activities in any culture in this world. It is no surprise when it is discovered that there is almost negligible number of scientists among the politicians in the United States House of Representative(4). It is a universal phenomenon that the most talented and brightest of students will naturally be inclined towards the sciences. It requires only an affirmative actions on the parts of governments to ensure some pre- selection of these students into the non-sciences disciplines such as commerce, administration, accountancies and politics. Compared to the sciences, these subjects are less technical, concepts less abstract and public engagement is easily achieved through any common mode of communication which explains the success of some public engagement programs.
Considering the above intrinsic inhibitions for public engagement of the sciences, the author’s exhortation to expose the sciences debates to the public at large unfiltered and unmoderated is bound to fail. One wonders if there will be any financier that will invest in the Cable Science Network(CSN) as suggested(1). For sciences to be dwelled by the wider public seriously, there must be new acculturation of the sciences at all level of society and educational processes. The methodology of teaching and learning processes of the sciences in schools have been addressed by many concerned scientists in the United States to ensure the minimum level of science literacy and motivation among the school leavers(5). In the creation and sustainability of knowledged societies, life-long learning is deemed a necessary attribute to any population and sciences should be made an imperative subject matter in that endeavour. Many daily newspapers have scientific news written by lay journalists. Perhaps real scientists of various disciplines should be made regular columnists in the top dailies of any country. It entails their ability to de-technicalize sciences without losing the important messages.The articles such as those essays on Sciences and Society in the online Science Magazine and that in the Science and Society section of the Journal of Clinical Investigations should be made more readily available to the wider reading public in the form of columns in the common dailies. It is to be noted that online subscription is still a minority culture as compared to reading newspapers or watching television even in some of the developed countries(6).
In conclusion, the efforts by the Journal of Clinical Investigations and other reputable scientific journals to feature a regular section addressing scientific issues in relation to society at large in a more readable language could increase the scientific capability of the critical mass of any society.
1.Terrence J. Sejnowski. Perceptions of Science : Tap into Science 24-7 http://www.sciencemag.org301/5633/601
2.Andrew R. Marks. The JCI starts two new series: Science in Medicine and Science and Society. J. Clin. Invest. 111:289 (2003).
5.Sejnowski TJ. Perception Science – Tap into Science 24-7 http://www.sciencemag.org/301/5633/601
6.Mansell R.and Wehn U. Knowledge Societies :
Information Technology for Sustainable Development. Ch. 2. Indicators of Participation, pg. 37. Oxford University Press 1998.
Submitter: Abd Hamid Mat Sain | firstname.lastname@example.org
IPPT, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Minden, Penang, Malaysia
Published February 10, 2003
Editor - It is refreshing and acknowledged with enthusiasm that the new sections on Science in Medicine and Science and Society are introduced in the highly credible journal like this one. The first article appraised the pathogeneses of asthma and the one representing Science and society is yet to come. Reading the first article above gives a sense of familiarity with regard to the kind of articles published in the Journal of Clinical Investigations as always under the articles section. One wonders how the new section of Science in Medicine is going to be any different. The Editor has indicated in his conclusion that this new section is justified in JCI in view of its standing as the premier biomedical journal and also as a bridge to a diverse biomedical community in the midst of informational overload (1).
It is ironical to reflect that there is a necessity to emphasise that there is science in medicine. It is intrinsic in the perception of students and teachers of medicine and also the lay people that science is the basis of modern medicine. Modern medicine as a crucial component of western civilisation earns its place and prestige because of its undoubted bases entrenched in science. The students of medicine have to be excellently drilled in scientific subjects at school or formative university level. The early phase of medical education in any university the world over is dedicated substantially, if not entirely to science subjects regardless of the nature of medical curricula. The newer problem- based (PBL) or integrated curriculum seems to continue the emphasis of the integration of the scientific subjects in the practice of medicine throughout the entire medical course as compared to the traditional curriculum(2). The later has been substantially criticised for the obstrusive segmentation of early pre-clinical years which devote the educational processes to almost entirely in the rote deliberation of scientific subjects from the later clinical years which are arbitrarily (empirically) spent in the clinical units and departments busy in emergency and elective services. The doctors subsequent professional lives are dominated by this clinical approach quite remote from any scientific deliberation akin to the earlier years in medical school.
The professional developments of medical doctors in the direction of clinical specialization and sub-specialization is quite natural in the context of the above educational scenario. Science is literally ignored or left behind in the course of these processes. This situation has resulted medicine to be influenced more by empiricism than by science. This realization has caused many concerned physician-scientists to draw back attention of physicians their roots by emphasizing the need to practise medicine according to "evidence" ie. science rather than by mere empirical experience(3). In this context, the effort by JCI should be lauded. However, the detail deliberations of the pathogeneses aspect may be balanced by an equally detailed scientific discussions of real clinical issues such as that of contemporary treatments, current pharmaceuticals and complications which will be more relevant to the practicing physicians.
The inaugural article in the Science and Society section is much awaited. One wonders of the immediate appropriateness of this section in a biomedical journal like JCI. Nevertheless, it is hoped that that diverse universal social issues and problems will be discussed in the context of biomedical discourse.
1.Andrew R. Marks. J. Clin. Invest. 111:289 (2003). doi:10.1172/JCI200317756.