Technologists vs. Scientists

Scientists and technologists have different methods, but the two compliment and enhance each other.

Scientists and technologists have different methods, but the two compliment and enhance each other.

The two terms, technology and science, have essentially disappeared into each other, at least in the general view. Many people use them interchangeably, but there are several distinctions between the two. Both terms, for instance, have different goals: the goal of technology is the creation of products, while the goal of science is the advancement of knowledge. In effect, technologists apply the theoretical pursuit of science to create new products that aid us in all facets of life. In return, these products may influence science in a back-and-forth method that feeds off each other like the waves of the ocean tide.

What Technologists Do

Technologists work within the framework of science -- that is, they use tools, processes and systems to transform heuristics into algorithms using both their mental and physical faculties. This technological framework is aided by engineers, who plan and design devices, processes and systems from scientific knowledge. Technicians, specializing in specific technological processes, make with their hands what engineers design with their mind. The entire process is considered technological -- from design to production -- with ideas at one end, design in the middle, and techniques at the end. In essence, technologists are the “doers” of scientific knowledge -- they transform blueprints into action.

What Scientists Do

Scientists advance knowledge through processes considered ethically neutral. They are autonomous, meaning they have the freedom to choose research. Using intellectual integrity and methodology, scientists use symbolic thinking, math, analogy and other processes to yield results that technologists use to produce real-world applications. Unlike technology, which has a specific purpose, science is considered ethically neutral because, as many scientists believe, the advancement of knowledge is neither good or bad, and because of this, it can’t be held accountable for ethically-questionable applications.

Similarities

Scientists and technologists are lumped together because the lines of where one process ends and the next begins is blurred. As scientific knowledge increases and technology advances, the two begin to overlap and feed off each other more than ever. Scientists provide the basis for the technological knowledge, such as how the discovery of DNA led to the technology responsible for genetically-engineered crops. It’s not entirely a one-way street, however, as technology such as DNA copying has led to scientific advancements, like reconstructing evolutionary relationships between organisms in biology. Technological applications, if successful, may also influence scientists to continue studies in a certain area.

Differences

While scientists and technologists are vital to each other, the differences in each position are inherent. Science, on one hand, is concerned with knowing; technology, on the other hand, is about doing. Scientists search for and theorize cause, while technologists search for and theorize about new processes. Scientists make statements free of value, but technologists make processes with values in mind. Where scientists use discovery, technologists use design, invention and production as developmental methods for their goals. While they may intrinsically be connected, scientists and technologists differ by their methods and goals.

Career Outlook

While workplace equality is undoubtedly improved as of 2013, certain sectors are more stubborn than others. Science and technology are similar in this regard, along with engineering, serving as the last frontiers of male privilege. There are quite a bit of women working in science and technology, but women resign their posts at alarming rates. Research finds that 41 percent of scientists, engineers and technologists are women, but 52 percent quit their jobs in their mid to late thirties. The reasons for this are complicated. Some point to the demanding hours, compounded with traditional gender roles, which create too much stress to continue. Other factors include a hostile male-dominated environment for women, many of whom find themselves isolated as their only female colleagues leave. Until science and technology are more accommodating of women, however, many women may leave these fields for other opportunities.

 

About the Author

Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.

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