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Wriggling on a Pin

For young journalists, interviewing a scientific expert can be a queasy experience. This feeling doesn't arise directly from relative ignorance, to which the interviewer may be modestly resigned. It stems from uncertainty about how that ignorance might be perceived and tolerated. The patience of some scientists can be short, although many are receptive and responsive to the media. Those differences not only show the danger in generalizing about personalities, but also point out the real sourc

Steve Bunk

For young journalists, interviewing a scientific expert can be a queasy experience. This feeling doesn't arise directly from relative ignorance, to which the interviewer may be modestly resigned. It stems from uncertainty about how that ignorance might be perceived and tolerated. The patience of some scientists can be short, although many are receptive and responsive to the media. Those differences not only show the danger in generalizing about personalities, but also point out the real source of the interviewer's apprehension: the unknown.

The best approach to this problem is scientific. What's needed is a taxonomy of personalities in science, the better to objectify and categorize the reactions of interviewees, thus fixing the unknown wriggling on a pin above a name tag. Sleeves rolled, the first step must be description, as a basis for classification.

A widely used instrument for personality typing that derives principally from the work of Carl Jung...

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