Today I was exposed to a novel idea that I thought I would share. The idea comes from a paper that came up as part of a reading group I’m in which is delving into the recent philosophy of chemistry material. The article was a chapter from “Professionalism and Ethics in Chemistry” by Jeffrey Kovac (Amazon) wherein he takes a look at how ethics is and can-be applied to the chemist profession. The article brought up a number of interesting discussion points such as how chemists must bear the responsibilities of several moralities at once. That is, how a moral chemist must deal with an ethical code of scientific rigor as well as a separate responsibility towards her employer and another towards public society. Certainly this is not unique to chemists, but I feel that ethics is more amiss in chemistry than some other fields that I can think of (physics, biology and medicine?).
But back to the topic I wanted to share. Kovac was looking at different ways that scientific fields relate to the public as well as to the science, itself, at which point he offered a structure to organize these ideas. Below I have produce a pictorial representation of what he outlined in the paper. Within it I have included a sampling of notable scientists in each of the four ‘archetypal’ quadrants. This structure really stood out to me for the way it offered to relate areas of science to one another in their common goals (the goals being the two orthogonal axes of social utility and scientific progress. While I am not completely satisfied with this depiction, for I would like to add an axis for Time Scale for Return on Investment, there are pragmatic reasons for limiting the structure to what is here. (The point is to relate scientists to the public they serve, afterall). Without further ado, here is the representation:
I would love to have included depictions of the approximate locations of the major scientific fields on this plot but time is fleeting, as always. Perhaps I will update when I find some time and inspiration for doing so.
Update: The picture has been updated to incorporate some scientific fields (based on my completely subjective basis).