Vrniti filozofijo nazaj v doktorat in nehati producirati fahidiote

Gundula Bosch v reviji Nature argumentira natanko to, za kar se tudi jaz že nekaj časa zavzemam – da v okviru študija nehamo producirati fahidiote, ki znajo perfektno odvajati funkcije, izpeljevati centralne limitne teoreme ali se igrati dinamične optimizacije, pač pa da jim ob tem predstavimo tudi kontekst uporabe teh metod. Torej, da jim damo dobro predznanje iz zgodovine vede, ki jo študirajo, sociologije, psihologije in filozofije, da bodo razumeli, kdaj se katera metoda uporabi, kakšne so omejitve njene uporabnosti v različnih kontekstih in kakšne implikacije ima za okolico, v kateri živijo. Da bodoče diplomante in doktorante postavimo pred etično ogledalo in ogledalo družbene odgovornosti.

In še korak naprej, kot argumentira Boscheva, ki je na Johns Hopkins University začela izvajati alternativni doktorski program iz biomedicine, prav filozofsko ozadje omogoča doktorskim študentom tudi kritični razmislek glede etičnih dilem znanosti, glede samega procesa raziskovanja in objavljanja ter izzivov uporabe statističnih metod. Študente moramo predvsem naučiti kritičnega razmišljanja in etike. S produciranjem fahidiotov dejansko produciramo robote. Morali pa bi intelektualce.

Under pressure to turn out productive lab members quickly, many PhD programmes in the biomedical sciences have shortened their courses, squeezing out opportunities for putting research into its wider context. Consequently, most PhD curricula are unlikely to nurture the big thinkers and creative problem-solvers that society needs.

That means students are taught every detail of a microbe’s life cycle but little about the life scientific. They need to be taught to recognize how errors can occur. Trainees should evaluate case studies derived from flawed real research, or use interdisciplinary detective games to find logical fallacies in the literature. Above all, students must be shown the scientific process as it is — with its limitations and potential pitfalls as well as its fun side, such as serendipitous discoveries and hilarious blunders.

This is exactly the gap that I am trying to fill at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where a new graduate science programme is entering its second year. Microbiologist Arturo Casadevall and I began pushing for reform in early 2015, citing the need to put the philosophy back into the doctorate of philosophy: that is, the ‘Ph’ back into the PhD. We call our programme R3, which means that our students learn to apply rigour to their design and conduct of experiments; view their work through the lens of social responsibility; and to think critically, communicate better, and thus improve reproducibility. Although we are aware of many innovative individual courses developed along these lines, we are striving for more-comprehensive reform.

Our offerings are different from others at the graduate level. We have critical-thinking assignments in which students analyse errors in reasoning in a New York Times opinion piece about ‘big sugar’, and the ethical implications of the arguments made in a New Yorker piece by surgeon Atul Gawande entitled ‘The Mistrust of Science’. Our courses on rigorous research, scientific integrity, logic, and mathematical and programming skills are integrated into students’ laboratory and fieldwork. Those studying the influenza virus, for example, work with real-life patient data sets and wrestle with the challenges of applied statistics.

So far, we have built 5 new courses from scratch and have enrolled 85 students from nearly a dozen departments and divisions. The courses cover the anatomy of errors and misconduct in scientific practice and teach students how to dissect the scientific literature. An interdisciplinary discussion series encourages broad and critical thinking about science. Our students learn to consider societal consequences of research advances, such as the ability to genetically alter sperm and eggs.

Discussions about the bigger-picture problems of the scientific enterprise get students to reflect on the limits of science, and where science’s ability to do something competes with what scientists should do from a moral point of view. In addition, we have seminars and workshops on professional skills, particularly leadership skills through effective communication, teaching and mentoring.

Vir: Gundula Bosch, Nature

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