Saturday, September 25, 2010


There's an interesting article by Jenny Rohn in the guardian today about perceptions of scientists. It's odd, she talks about societies perceptions of scientists, how, for quite some time, its been accepted that the sterotype is white male boffin. I can't rightly say whether that is the perception or not, it certainly isn't mine. She offers, what I think is a pretty accurate description of scientists, i.e. a varied mix of people ranging from scruffy to trim, most of us pretty focused on work, not particularly out of the ordinary socially speaking. And there is a rough sketch of scientists as they have been appearing in movies for several years, distinctly boffin like.

The interesting bit it think, is that she suggests that the boffin stereotype is what scientists perceive as societies perception of us and that scientists themselves are worried by this. This is where I think she's wrong though. The topic of conversation amongst the scientists I know, is very rarely about how society perceives us as individuals. It is much more about how society perceives science (badly, in the sense of incorrect rather than good/bad) or more commonly, about how the media, be it movies of newspapers portray or represent the actual science itself (almost universally, appallingly).

The concern is not whether we're thought of as boffins or not, but rather how our work is presented and used. Which is as it should be. Though I have to say, I've always been rather fond of the word boffin. Boffin. 

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