The Social Side of Science


Michal Schwartz in her office at the Weizmann Institute, in the city of Rehovot. (Photograph by Kobi Wolf )

Some of us have a range of perception that rides imperceptibly on the polite fiction that the scientific community, as a whole, adopts new evidence with open arms. We sometimes ignore the fact that this community, like all communities,  is also a social organ populated with people whose careers and reputations are hinged on the validity of certain ideas. Social acceptance is validity when it comes to social organs, not whether or not an idea is well grounded in evidence. For science, this presents a real problem because the social aspet and the goal of science can be at odds with each other.

The line is sometimes blurred between acceptance and validity and sometimes it is outright deliberately violated for motives other than the advancement of evidence based knowledge. To focus in on motives that beyond ego and social standing there are also some real world implications. Funding channels are greased by the reputations of the respected and this makes respect as much, or more, a currency in the scientific community as evidence. At times this social structural aspect of science is counter to the emergence of evidence as the spear tip of what the scientific community is ostensibly about. Although scientific convention is hard to break, especially in some areas, here is one story of a tenacious person, Michal Schwartz,  who followed the evidence despite the adversity. From my perspective, people like these are worthy of celebration. They probably already have their fill of scorn.

Michal Schwartz, a professor of neuroimmunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, established the role of the immune system in brain health and repair. She is also author of the book, Neuroimmunity: A New Science That Will Revolutionize How We Keep our Brains Healthy and Young. Among the things this book addresses are potential improvements in the treatment for Alzheimer’s, dementia, spinal cord injuries, depression and glaucoma.

Read more about her in Anne Kingston’s article in Maclean’s

The vital link between your immune system and brain health

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