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Moral courage and science

Marc Edwards, the scientist who helped expose the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, says that the systems built to support scientists do not reward moral courage and that the university pipeline contains toxins of its own — which, if ignored, will corrode public faith in science. When is it appropriate for academics to be skeptical of an official narrative when that narrative is coming from scientific authorities? “I grew up…

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Is University Research Missing What Matters Most?

School of Public Health Dean Sandro Galea issued a call for a change in research priorities—away from narrow, piecemeal inquiries, towards large-scale efforts to improve population health—in the January 24 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. In a Chronicle issue headlined, “Is University Research Missing What Matters?” Galea is a leading voice urging a revamping of the structures that support university science in order to tackle the most pressing…

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Clarifying science “authorship”

Imagine that one of your colleagues or friends publishes a new book and mentions you on the cover as the co-author. Without letting you know. You walk into a bookstore and see “your” book. Would you feel honored or embarrassed? Would you consider it your book? Would you take the credit if people complimented you? Would you take the criticism if people said it was mediocre? This summer I discovered…

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Do History of Science programs need more science?

The history of science has never had the easiest stories to tell. A field suspended between the two cultures, it’s been contested territory for as long as it has existed: rife with clattering jargon, methodological skirmishes, and ideological warfare. Although it entered academe as science’s explanatory sidekick, over the past few decades the history of science has emerged a full-fledged discipline, drawing practitioners mostly from the humanities. But this independence,…

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As Researchers Turn to Google, Libraries Navigate the Messy World of Discovery Tools

Many professors and students gravitate to Google as a gateway to research. Libraries want to offer them a comparably simple and broad experience for searching academic content. As a result, a major change is under way in how libraries organize information. Instead of bewildering users with a bevy of specialized databases—books here, articles there—many libraries are bulldozing their digital silos. They now offer one-stop search boxes that comb entire collections,…

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Academic Tribalism

When I was a younger scholar, a very famous cognitive psychologist came to my office to visit me during his colloquium trip to my university. I mentioned with pride that I had just written a new textbook in cognitive psychology. His quick response was, “Bob, you’re not a cognitive psychologist anymore.” I was deeply hurt. I had been trained in cognitive psychology by some of the top scholars in the…

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