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Are we all scientific experts now?

15 August 2016

Cover of Are We All Scientific Experts Now by Harry Collins

A new book by sociologist Professor Harry Collins has been sparking debate on a US university campus.

Are We All Scientific Experts Now? has been chosen as common reading for the incoming class of 2020 at Hofstra University (Long Island, New York). 2,000 copies have been printed with a special extra page and one will be given to each freshman student.

The common reading scheme is part of a summer orientation programme designed to prepare students for orientation and whet their appetites for the university experience.

Students are encouraged to take part in online discussions around the book, as well as submit entries to an essay competition on any topic relating to the common reading. Professor Collins will present the winners with prizes during a Welcome Week address to the first-year class in early September.

The book is a timely publication in light of how public confidence in science has been dented in recent years by scientific scandals, revelations such as Climategate, and debates about the safety of the MMR vaccine.  Professor Collins seeks to redeem scientific expertise, reassert science’s special status, and warn against the dubious “default” expertise displayed by many of those outside the scientific community.

Books chosen by Hofstra in previous years have been:

2008      Arthur M. Schlesinger, Rating the Presidents: Washington to Clinton
2009      Jonathan Alter, The Defining Moment (selections), Paul Krugman, What Obama Must Do, Gary Becker, The Free Market’s Trial by Fire
2010      Nadine Gordimer, The Pickup
2011      Tracy Kidder, Mountains beyond Mountains
2012      Jim Lehrer, Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates
2013      Will Allen, Good Food Revolution
2014      Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen
2015      Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog

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