"Viral Science and the Tragedy of the Scientific Commons"
Christopher Winship, Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
Samuel Weiss Evans, Science, Technology & Society Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School.
Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.
Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Lunch is provided if you RSVP. via our online form before Thursday afternoon, September 12th:
In recent decades there has been an exponential increase in both the public appetite for information and the speed at which technologies can transmit it. These dynamics have incented scientists (and other content producers) to accelerate their production cycles, and convey their content in more rapidly digestible forms. We propose that, too often, scientists have participated in this process by transforming scientific research into highly simplified, emotional, and persuasive viral content. As research is packaged for public and corporate consumption, there is the danger that it turns into a type of folklore, replete with dubious causal relationships. We explore these dynamics through the specific example of the extraordinary reach of implicit bias research in corporate settings and public discourse. We consider how the increasingly permeable boundary between academia and the public can threaten scientific authority, and identify potential institutional responses to reclaim it. We propose a new Hutchins Commission as one possible approach to the amelioration of these problems.
Christopher Winship is the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University and a member of Kennedy School’s senior faculty. He is an associate of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Program in Criminal Justice, the Ph.D. Program in Organizational Behavior, the Center for Public Leadership, the Safra Center for Ethics, and the Program in Social Inequality. He has a BA in Sociology and Mathematics from Dartmouth (1972) and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard (1977). He is the co-founder of the Boston Area Research Initiative, an inter-university research collaborative whose goal is to bring high quality research to local government decision making. He has been the editor of Sociological Methods & Research since 1995. His book co-authored with Steve Morgan Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research has sold over 16,000 copies. He is co-editing a book on Pragmatism and Sociology. In the past and presently, he has done extensive research on community policing in Boston.
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