Humanities vs Science: is writing a dying art?

Science and humanities are often segregated in education and professional development. Even as a personal interest, the two disciplines are usually considered incompatible. In reality, they are complementary. Imagine if all science degrees included core humanities subjects in the first year? How would scientists, and science, benefit from a basic humanities perspective? This series looks for answers in some of the most common humanities disciplines.

Mentioning the word ‘humanities’ in a room full of scientists is pretty risky. For some scientists, there is a stigma attached to the study of ‘arty’ subjects. The process of research and inquiry in classics, history, literature and anthropology is very different to the scientific method. Yet neither approach is wrong, both are equally creative, and both have the ultimate goal of discovering and sharing knowledge. Having studied and worked in both disciplines, I can’t see any way that one is more rigorous than the other. But there is a huge difference in the way that most students are educated in each discipline. Humanities courses, in particular, are often better at teaching students how to write.

Science is about generating and sharing knowledge to build our collective wisdom. So communicating the results of scientific research is a core responsibility of a scientist…something that has become a bit of a topical issue. Experts of various disciplines have been sharing great ideas through blogs, popular science media and academic journals on how scientists can communicate more effectively. However, the majority of these pieces focus on communication as a practising scientist, i.e. after graduation. Far less attention is given to how communication skills can be enhanced prior to starting a science career by top-down initiatives at the education level. Continue reading

Ode to Ecology

It’s been over three years since I wrote my first post here. This column started as a creative outlet for my writer’s soul, as I tackled the confines of academic science writing.

I also saw it as a way to champion my new career. When I wrote my first post, I had encountered many people, including family and friends, who were genuinely puzzled over what I actually ‘do’.

I remember my stint in the unemployment queue during the fiscal fiasco. “I’m an ecologist”, I said to the government careers adviser.

She looked at me blankly and replied “Sorry, a what? How do you spell that?” Continue reading