The KLI
Entry 443 of 452

News Details

Corey Bunce
2024-05-15
Narrative Discourse and the Process of Science
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Topic description / abstract:
 
Modern biology is a primarily discursive endeavor. Researchers acquire and contribute the majority of their knowledge of biological systems through communication with other researchers in the form of scientific discussions, research articles, and presentations. Within these forms, different fields are prone to favor different modes of discourse. In developmental biology, for instance, both the norms of research reporting and the primary goal of characterizing and explicating developmental processes necessitates that communication between researchers often invokes the basic structure of narrative. Narrative, as a mode of discourse, presents certain constraints and affordances which can influence practice and progress in the field. Ongoing calls which argue that scientists should embrace storytelling as an effective tool for communicating complex ideas in understandable and memorable ways appeal to the affordances of narrative. However, simultaneously there are calls for biologists to reexamine the problematic ways that narratives can oversimplify reality, distort perspectives, and bias understanding. This results in significant tension around the use and value of narrative in science. In order to illuminate the complexities of using narrative and best inform scientific practice, I turn to the disciplines of Literary Studies and Narratology. When reformulating the discursive challenges researchers face in terms of these fields, I find that literary theory and semiotics can offer practical solutions. As a first example, I look at the scientific report and construe the scientific method as a narrative in order to show how current practices balance factuality across discourse levels. In a second example, I look to the field of sex development, where researchers are interested in disrupting narrative norms which have problematically shaped the understanding of developmental processes. These examples show how literary ideas can contribute practical insights to the study of scientific practices and scientific training.
 
Biographical note:

Corey Bunce is a biologist with a broad range of interests across development, evolution, systems biology, and philosophy of biology. He obtained a Master's degree in Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of Connecticut where he specialized in symbiosis and studied developmental regulation in hydrothermal vent tubeworms. He completed his Ph.D. in Cell Biology at Duke University where his research investigated the spatiotemporal dynamics of mouse gonad development and sex determination. At the KLI, Corey will explore the discursive side of science, hoping to bridge biological research practices and literary theory.