He blogs on research ethics
26 July 2019
The philosopher Pär Segerdahl has been the editor of the Ethics Blog for seven years. He describes blogging as a way to supplement public debate with a more thoughtful tone that invites the readers to try out new ideas.
The Ethics Blog began seven years ago and is about research at the Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics at Uppsala University.
Working on the Ethics Blog is part of Segerdahl’s position as a researcher at the Centre and having blogged for seven years, he has developed ideas about why it is important for researchers to blog.
“As a researcher, it’s easy to act as an expert informing less knowledgeable readers. But as a researcher, it’s also important to relate to what one does not know. As a philosopher, I try to identify preconceived notions about, say, biobanks or stem cell research and to propose less conventional ways of thinking. I use the blog as an opportunity to test a new idea, and invite the reader to try out the idea too.”
Segerdahl believes that researchers who have the courage to show that research also involves wondering and questioning can complement public debate in a crucial and important manner.
“Public debate largely consists of opinion makers who, often referring to experts, take a position superior to the reader. The thoughtful researcher instead invites the reader to try out different thoughts on important social issues. Thoughtfulness recognises our own uncertainty, works with it and thinks with it. This thoughtfulness becomes a common form of address that unites us when we talk about important issues, because the answers to such questions are rarely given, even if we would like to pretend they are.”
Segerdahl compares writing blog posts with writing aphorisms.
“I want the blog posts to be short, thoughtful reflections on various bioethical topics. They should contain as much text as is necessary to develop an idea.”
Besides the researcher being able to contribute to public debate by showing a more thoughtful attitude, blogging can also help the researcher obtain new questions for research. Segerdahl explains that several thoughts he blogged about have subsequently become philosophical research articles.
“In the blog, I can set out from the fact that I am not absolutely certain. I don’t try to paint a façade of certainty that hides what I don’t know. On the contrary, I often write about matters that strike me as more difficult and less clear than people usually assume. It can be stressful to find the time needed to write this way. But as I say, it can lead to new ideas for research.”
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