Unleash your inner dummy (via Nature Jobs Column). Peter Fiske suggests that scientists are too hung up on being experts in their field, and this often limits their perspective in applying for jobs and their own view of their potential contribution to society.
Now I can think of a group of scientists for whom the sky’s the limit as far as their own view of their personal contribution to society is concerned, but I digress… Here’s a bit climate scientists should heed:
“Dummies ask questions that experts assume were answered long ago. Dummies explore subject areas in which they lack knowledge. Dummies listen more and talk less.
Becoming a dummy frees you from dogma. Developing expertise can often mean ingesting unquestioned assumptions and accepted facts. Such received beliefs can lead to unchallenged group decision-making and prevent a community from recognizing a path-breaking discovery — especially when it comes from someone outside the discipline.”
That sounds awfully like climate science…
In fact, many exciting scientific discoveries have arisen from a non-expert asking a basic question — consider, for example, the connection between the extinction of the dinosaurs and a meteorite impact, which was the brainchild of an experimental physicist, not a palaeontologist. Not coincidentally, experts in a field often meet these basic questions with a fair degree of hostility.
No kidding! And some further great advice…
Embracing your inner dummy is also a powerful tool for communicating science. Many scientists assume that public hostility toward science stems from ignorance of the facts, and that science education is the remedy. But perhaps the answer is also more human engagement by scientists; sometimes they need to step out of the role of expert and seek to understand the audience’s cultural and ethical perspectives.
That understanding of “the audience’s cultural and ethical perspective”, still has climate idealists in a tizzy. With ‘fails’ like 10:10 No Pressure, and envirocharities-turned advocacy groups like WWF (cuddly no longer) and Greenpeace pushing in-your-face guilt, people have had enough. The answer is they can see past the hyperbole and really do care where their money ends up.
I can think of plenty of skeptics who are experts in their own fields but embraced their inner dummy years ago.