fbpx Viral Science and the Tragedy of the Scientific Commons | Harvard Kennedy School
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Date and Location

September 16, 2019
12:15 PM - 2:00 PM
Cgis (south) Building Room S050 1730 Cambridge Street


Viral Science and the Tragedy of the Scientific Commons Photo

Abstract In recent decades there has been an exponential
increase in both the public appetite for information and the speed at which
technologies can transmit it. These dynamics have incented scientists (and
other content producers) to accelerate their production cycles, and convey
their content in more rapidly digestible forms. We propose that, too often,
scientists have participated in this process by transforming scientific
research into highly simplified, emotional, and persuasive viral content. As
research is packaged for public and corporate consumption, there is the danger
that it turns into a type of folklore, replete with dubious causal
relationships. We explore these dynamics through the specific example of the
extraordinary reach of implicit bias research in corporate settings and public
discourse. We consider how the increasingly permeable boundary between academia
and the public can threaten scientific authority, and identify potential
institutional responses to reclaim it. We propose a new Hutchins Commission as
one possible approach to the amelioration of these problems.

Bio Christopher
Winship is the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard
University and a member of Kennedy School’s senior faculty. He is an
associate of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, the Program in
Criminal Justice, the Ph.D. Program in Organizational Behavior, the Center for
Public Leadership, the Safra Center for Ethics, and the Program in Social
Inequality. He has a BA in Sociology and Mathematics from Dartmouth (1972) and
a Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard (1977). He is the co-founder of the Boston
Area Research Initiative, an inter-university research collaborative whose goal
is to bring high quality research to local government decision making. He has
been the editor of Sociological Methods & Research since 1995.
His book co-authored with Steve Morgan Counterfactuals and
Causal Inference Methods and Principles for Social Research has
sold over 16,000 copies. He is co-editing a book on Pragmatism and Sociology.
In the past and presently, he has done extensive research on community policing
in Boston.