Recognizing research as service activity

Published: October 2, 2015

Commentary by

On Wednesday night, I attended a Health Professions Organization meeting in which Thomas Hogan, Ph.D., a professor in the psychology department, said something that truly struck me. In St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” he stressed scientific research as service. This unique quote opened my eyes to the field of research as a whole and allowed me to see it in a new way.

When one thinks of service, he or she usually thinks of serving food at a local soup kitchen or tutoring school children between classes. Research does not even enter the picture. But only through research can progress occur. And with scientific progress comes the ability to improve people’s lives, whether medically, socially or environmentally.

While stressing research, Pope John Paul II also stressed the necessity of remembering its ethical implications. “The cause of the human person will only be served if knowledge is joined to conscience,” he said. Thus, for research to count as service, scientists’ moral consciences must be clear. I found that this point resonates with me, and I believe it to be a necessity before starting any project.

As a science major strongly considering research in the future, seeing research as service is an interesting and different view. I’ve always seen research as beneficial for continued progress in science, but for some reason, I’ve never seen it as service, even though this should be a logical continuation of thought. I’ve just never put the two ideas together, and I’m willing to bet that not many other people have, either.

Research is an overlooked field. It can change lives and open new doors, but people overlook it. Service, on the other hand, is stressed constantly, especially at a Jesuit university.

As a school with a strong science program that prides itself on fostering an environment of men and women for others, The University should stress the service that “men and women of science” can provide. Pope John Paul II’s quote should not be surprising; service should be an obvious and key aspect of research.

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