Smack-down: Scientists versus practitioners

Random, SIOP, Uncategorized

Geeks are people with deep technical expertise.  So most geek fields have a strong research and intellectual foundation.  This often results in having two general categories of people working in the same area – scientists and practitioners. 

The scientists work to advance the field through research and analysis.  Sometimes they work in universities and sometimes in research labs and think tanks.  Practitioners work to apply the knowledge in order to impact people and business and the world.

For example, a medical researcher might seek the cure for cancer by doing research in a university, medical school lab.   The physician in a hospital uses that research to treat patients.

Seems like a healthy, practical and symbiotic relationship.  Both add value.  Both need each other to be effective.

But it does not always seem to work that way.

I recently attended the professional conference for my field, Industrial-Organizational Psychology.  SIOP is about 2/3 academic researchers and about 1/3 practitioners.  There always seems to be an unhealthy competition and disrespect between the scientists and practitioners.

The scientists think the practitioners are sell-outs for going into business and sometimes having to sacrifice theoretical purity for practical reality.  Practitioners see the scientists as focused on minutiae (like obscure statistical measurement) instead of researching practical applications.

SIOP has even been professing for years that all I/O Psychologists should be Scientist-Practitioners.  That would mean that everyone has a theoretical orientation with practical focus – learn to do both.

It has not seemed to evolve that way. 

Is there a scientist versus practitioner divide in your geek field?

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