On June, the 23rd of last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its Draft Report on the Environment, a report on environmental quality. The EPA is an autonomous federal agency known for its reliability on environmental studies and safeguards. Its Draft Report is considered by Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the nation's most scientifically reliable analysis on environmental quality.
This article will discuss and comment some of the results obtained by the application of the questionnaire "Public perception of Science and Technology". The questionnaire is a translated and adapted Portuguese version from the original in
Through the years, Majorana's life - and his mysterious disappearance in particular - inspired manifold representations. The wide range of links to science, philosophy and literature have allowed deep reflections crossing the borders of genre: from theatre to fiction, from essays to novels and cartoons. Reconstructing the character of Majorana by thinking back to all the interpretations he has been given allows us to place him in a wider and more organic context, which goes beyond the functional aspects of fiction. In this wider prospective, we can clearly see why the still unresolved Majorana case has aroused the interest of so many diverse authors.
The aim of the present research is to study the "collective imaginary" produced by the articles within scientific circulation, in order to understand the perception of science that is shaping among the public. It is meant to identify, based on the theoretical background of cognitive science and on a epistemological perspective, the cognitive maps that drive the analysis and the interpretation of scientific knowledge, in order to let the global sense built by single individuals' cognitions and interpretative acts arise; their paradigms of reference and the scientific imaginary being subtended. The results from this analysis have proven how important the role of collective scientific imaginary can be in a "knowledgeable society". Twelve cognitive maps have been deduced, and they represent the epistemological outlines the articles refer to. They have highlighted an ongoing general transition from mechanicist and reductionist paradigms of reference to other olistic and systemic ones, as well as the new role that technology has attained within our society and its own imaginary. What comes out of all of this, is therefore an always-tighter need for collaboration and cooperation among all the disciplines concurring to the building of our society and our science.
There are forces, factors, and influences other than pending classical peer review that assure the quality of scholarship before formal publication.
Scholars and scientists do research to create new knowledge so that other scholars and scientists can use it to create still more new knowledge and to apply it to improving people's lives. They are paid to do research, but not to report their research: that they do for free, because it is not royalty-revenue from their research papers but their "research impact" that pays their salaries, funds their further research, earns them prestige and prizes, etc. "Research impact" means how much of a contribution your research makes to further research: do other researchers read, use, cite, and apply your findings? The more they do, the higher your research impact. One way to measure this is by counting how many researchers use and cite your work in their own research papers.
I still remember very clearly my first encounter with peer review: I was a Ph. D. student in physics and I had written my first paper, submitted it to a journal and - after what seemed to me a very long time - received a reply with the request for few changes and corrections I was supposed to include in my paper before it could be considered for publication. These very simple steps: the writing up of some original research results in a paper, its submission to a journal and the process of the work being read and judged by someone reputed to be an expert in the field is what we call peer review - the judging of scientific work by your peers - and it is an essential part of what science is. No scientific achievement can be considered as such until has been recognized by the community at large and such a recognition mainly comes from the peer review process. The presence of this check has arguably helped and fostered the constant and cumulative growth of science.
Peer review is the evaluation method that has characterized the scientific growth of the last four centuries, the first four of what is called modern science, indeed. It is matter of scientific communication inside scientific community, a subject too poorly studied in comparison with its critical importance for a scientific study of science (science of science). Peer review has been used for scientific paper evaluation before publication (editorial peer review) and for research proposal evaluation before financial support (grants peer review). Both cases present similar pros and cons, so I will treat them as a unique method for scientific evaluation. While the method remained pretty unchanged all along the period, apart from communication technology with peers, science has tremendously changed its organization and its relevance to society. So, peer review is antique and well rooted in practise, but its historical aim should now to be contrasted with the present situation of actual research, practises and social involvement of science.