Science as a verb

Grand Canyon petroglyph

Grand Canyon petroglyph

When I looked into how the news stories were framed over the Havasupai case, I learned that science is used as a verb.

Sciencing—an ersatz verb—means to science, I argue.

Here’s an example: in the Havasupai case, the Indians of the Southwest willingly gave researchers their blood so that scientists could explore factors that contribute to diseases such as diabetes.

But it turns out that the blood samples were used to examine a raft of issues—some which the tribe found objectionable, such as their place of origin.

When the Havasupai sued scientists for failing to fully disclose their reasons for studying tribal members’ blood, one geneticist defended herself in The New York Times, saying, “I was doing good science.”

The story makes it seem that “doing good science”—sciencing—is a rational response to an ethical charge that scientists failed to get permission for some of the studies they conducted.

Somehow, science gets a pass with some types of ethical dilemmas.



About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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