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Doing Good Science

Doing Good Science

Building knowledge, training new scientists, sharing a world.

Every diet has a body-count: in the garden with the vegetarian killing snails.

When the demand of my job and my family life allow, I try to take advantage of the fact that I live in California by maintaining a vegetable garden. One of the less pleasant aspects of vegetable gardening is that, every winter and spring, it requires me to embark on a program of snail and slug eradication -- which is to say, I hunt for snails and slugs in my garden and I kill them.As it happens, I'm a vegetarian and an ethicist.

August 9, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Environmental impacts of what we eat: the difficulty of apples-to-apples comparisons.

When we think about food, how often do we think about what it's going to do for us (in terms of nutrition, taste, satiety), and how often do we focus on what was required to get it to our tables?Back when I was a wee chemistry student learning how to solve problems in thermodynamics, my teachers described the importance for any given problem of identifying the system and the surroundings.

August 8, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Doing fun chemistry.

You may have noticed by now that the Scientific American Blog Network is having something of a Chemistry Day.Reading about chemistry is fun, but I reckon it's even more fun to do some chemistry.

August 2, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Building knowledge (and stuff) ethically: the principles of "Green Chemistry".

Like other scientific disciplines, chemistry is in the business of building knowledge. In addition to knowledge, chemistry sometimes also builds stuff -- molecules which didn't exist until people figured out ways to make them.Scientists (among others) tend to assume that knowledge is a good thing.

August 2, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Objectivity requires teamwork, but teamwork is hard.

In my last post, I set out to explain why the scientific quest to build something approaching objective knowledge requires help from other people. However, teamwork can be a challenge in the best of circumstances.

July 21, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

The objectivity thing (or, why science is a team sport).

One of the qualities we expect from good science is objectivity. And, we're pretty sure that the scientific method (whatever that is) has something to do with delivering scientific knowledge that is objective (or more objective than it would be otherwise, at any rate).In this post, I'm here to tell you that it's more complicated than that -- at least, if you're operating with the picture of the scientific method you were taught in middle school.

July 20, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Dividing cognitive labor, sharing a world: the American public and climate science.

It's not just scientists who think science is up to something important. Even non-scientists are inclined to think that scientific knowledge claims have a special grip on our world, that they are likely to give us information or insight that will help us move through that world more successfully.But scientists and non-scientists alike recognize that we can separate the questions: What is the world like?

July 6, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Let’s talk about “Doing Good Science”.

Welcome to my shiny new blog at Scientific American! Here, we’ll be talking about what’s involved in doing good science — and about what ethics has to do with it.

July 5, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel

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