Naga5000's WunderBlog

Social Change: The Emerging Role of The Activist Scientist

By: Naga5000, 6:25 PM GMT on February 26, 2014

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Emile Durkheim sought to lay out the ground work of Sociology as its own field of scientific exploration. His major work, "The Rules of Sociological Method", defined the social scientist as the objective observer. This definition was one borrowed from the prevailing ideas of what it means to be a researcher and a scientist. Objective observation, empirical research, and a simple conclusion of what the data said was the duty of the scientist.

In today's world social scientists are faced with new hurdles. The constant defining and redefining of social variables, coupled with a revived anti-science/anti-intellectualism movement has led the social scientist to consider a new role, referred here as "The Scientist/Activist". This role is very controversial, as Durkheim rightfully pointed out, this retreat from pure objectivism in research opens the door to critiques of bias. Fortunately, those critiques are irrelevant as the objective observer scientist is still a part of the Scientist/Activist. The data, observations, methodology, and conclusion still must follow the structure of pure science. Any deviation from this would be a deviation from the very essence that allowed the social sciences to flourish and become a relevant field in academics.

In Sociology in particular, the debate of whether this step of becoming the Scientist/Activist has been forced on us. Leaders in the disciplines of Gender (Michael Kimmel - Masculinity and Patricia Hill Collins - Black Feminist Theory) have embraced this new role. Researchers in our sister field of rhetoric have also taken the steps in this field in the work of defining "new racism" (e.g. color blind racism). In my own specialized fields of educational sociology, medical sociology, and social change, we have begun the steps of role change as the issues have become popular and politicized.

This politicization is currently being experienced by our fellow scientists in the field of climate science. The fight those publishing scientists face, most notably Michal Mann, have most definitely have exerted pressure in other disciplines to fight back and advocate for what is correct and for solutions to the issues discovered by our research.

This new role, a form of group social change, is not a politicized liberal movement. It is a response to the politicization of the anti-science and anti-intellectualism movements. The only response we have is to be advocates for our ideas, our research, and what we think, as experts in our fields, the proper solutions and courses of action are.

As scientists, it is our duty to be objective observers and publish the results of our qualitative and quantitative analyses. As advocates we must fight back against the misinformation and disinformation campaigns being waged outside of our realm of influence.

Thanks to those who took the time to read this. It is only a brief thought and glimpse into my personal opinion and reaction to the social change that is forthcoming in the academic world. Whatever your education level or knowledge on the subject, I wish for the most ideal solution that you support what we as scientists have shown empirical evidence for and more importantly understand what research and publication is, and that is an ongoing discussion, debate, and addition within a theoretical context.





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Sociologist and Statistician from Downtown Orlando.

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