The Reward System of Science Reconfigured? Forging a new image of the deserving scientist

Abstract: The reward (and punishment) system of science is an expression of its putative autonomy, i.e., the ability to govern itself based on criteria it has authored. It has put in place processes that recognize those among its members who have made substantive contributions to scientific knowledge. The validation of these accomplishments is said to be based entirely on “internal,” i.e., scientific, principles. As a community with strict rules of entry and boundaries that purport to separate the scientific from what is not, science has often resisted strenuously any encroachments into its affairs from the outside, lay, society. The laity is excluded from matters scientific because, in science’s view, it is not competent to do so; it does not possess the specialized knowledge necessary to evaluate science’s practices—hence, lay considerations are irrelevant to the affairs of science. However, in the recent past, events appear to have the potential to upend this idyllic construct. I will examine two cases (the American Statistical Association’s decision in 2020 to remove the name of R. A. Fisher from a lectureship and, in 2021, the cancellation of the Carlson Lecture at MIT) that could be harbingers of a reconfigured reward system of science—one in which “external” criteria to science are used to reward or punish an individual scientist.

KEYWORDS : autonomy of science, reward system of science, scientific deviance

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