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Reflections on Current Research: Science and Scientists in Military Organizations

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Journal Article - Open Access

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Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning Quantico United States

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From my initial anthropological fieldwork on U.S. homeland security through my time working within different Department of Defense DoDorganizations, I have watched the way military and civilian organizations involved in national security interact with science and scientists. Likeother scholars and practitioners, I saw many problems with organizations ability to select appropriate scientific expertise and research designs, critically assess claims, and make use of results. Initially, I was concerned with the bias toward hard science approaches and quantitative results that, while familiar to the people in national security organizations, were inappropriate to the problems at hand. I focused on communicating the value of qualitative social and behavioral research and trying to shift organizational leaders out of their quantitative comfort zones. Although I had some successes, I knew I needed to look at the broader context and patterns in which these problems were embedded. Recently, I have been able to start a small research project to examine DoDs relationships with science and scientists in more depth within the context of the U.S. Marine Corps. This note presents informal reflections on the project in its early stages, the practical problems that spurred my interest, the historical context of those problems, and some structural barriers to data gathering. Since the research is ongoing, I do not present findings or propose solutions. However, the work thus far, as well as the obstacles I have encountered, may serve to illustrate the challenges of trying to conduct systematic research on how the military consumes scientific expertise and knowledge. The project, loosely titled Science Consumption in Military Organizations, is an effort to combine knowledge gained through practice 1 with more systematic documentary and interview-based research. As such, it is an experiment in methods, as well an examination of the topic of science consumptions.

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