29 April 2012
By Sarah Davies
One of the fun parts of my research – in what sometimes gets called Science, Technology and Society Studies – is that I get to investigate the process of research itself – to look at how other scholars go about imagining the process they’re engaged in.* The other day I was helping with a focus group with a group of biomedical researchers which involved a discussion of why they did what they did: was it to produce a good product for industry? To help society in some broader, more general way? Or simply because it was their job?
People’s responses came from a number of different directions – they had multiple, different motivations for doing what they did. Which I guess is true of all of us. I’d like to think that my research has the potential, at least, to do some good in the world, but I also (perhaps mostly) do it because I love it and find it fascinating. I know some people who are more instrumental about their work: doing a PhD is a good background for them to get another (more highly paid) job. Others again just need to pay the bills. And I’m sure there are many more motivations for doing the research we do. When it comes down to it, what would you say drives you?
* Of course, this can all get a bit meta. At the moment my department is hosting a scholar who is doing an ethnography of us: she is watching us watching scientists do research…