Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My SciGrandmother

I've talked previously about my #STEMmom, but I also have a pretty awesome STEM grandmother. My paternal grandmother was a research assistant for my grandfather, and later, my step grandfather, both of whom were experimental psychologists. After completing her Master's degree, she was dissuaded from finishing a PhD. However, she stayed in science doing significant research for many years, as evidenced by her publication record on audio and visual perception. She was fantastically supportive when my aunt went for her doctorate in neuroscience, and is pleased as peaches that I'm going for my doctorate. I'm very proud to have her as a grandmother.

However, as an engineer, I hear an awful lot of my peers malign psychology and the other social sciences as not "real science". The infamous Coburn report spends a significant fraction of its length attacking social sciences in particular, and proposes eliminating the entire Social, Behavioral and Economics Directorate. Yes, other agencies fund similar research, but other agencies also fund work in the physical sciences (i.e., NIH, DoD, DoE, etc.). The physical sciences strive to understand the universe: social sciences strive to understand humanity. Just because you don't need to know calculus doesn't mean it's not "real science". The scientific method still applies. In good experiments, there are still control groups and sample size considerations. Results from social science research have changed how we approach special education, our understanding of how people interact, how we perceive people with mental illnesses. There's more to psychology than Freud...

1 comment:

  1. My feeling is that if you're testing a hypothesis, analyzing and interpreting results, you're doing real science. Both brilliant and crappy research exist in every field, and real or fake is not at all exclusive to psych. The attitude I most encounter re the psych field is that it is overspeculative, but that is coming from neuroscientists of various subfields.