Rutgers University New Brunswick Safety of Nuclear Power Research
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Topic: Is Nuclear Power Safe?
present both sides of your controversy and then identify the scientific and pseudoscientific sides of both the supporting and opposing side of the controversy.The point of the paper is to get you to think skeptically about both sides. I want you to demonstrate that you have learned (hopefully) how to evaluate a scientific argument and determine whether the science is sound, or whether there is some pseudoscience creeping in.
The goals of the paper are to:
get you to think critically about a topic
teach you how to find reputable sources
demonstrate you can recognize pseudoscientific arguments
Research. The next step is researching the topic and gathering information on both sides of the controversy. The internet is a great place to start, but the key will be finding reputable sources. Websites alone are NOT reputable sources (anyone can put up a website). They should cite a book, a newspaper article, a published scientific paper, etc. If they don’t, that’s generally a clue that it may not be a reputable source and you may want to look elsewhere. You will need to cite your arguments and you cannot use a website as the citation. Generally the best citations are primary sources. This can include newspaper articles, books, photographs/drawings/posters, and perhaps, most importantly for this class, primary literature. Primary literature are scientific papers that have been through peer review. This means that the authors wrote the article, sent it to the journal, the editor of the journal sent the article to 2-3 other scientists who provide anonymous reviews and decide whether the study was conducted to the highest degree and should be published. The reviewer’s job is to make sure only reasonable results that are supported by the data get published. This is the way that we can be sure that the primary literature contains defensible and reliable science.
Some popular literature can serve as a reliable source to find primary literature. Popular literature is not peer-reviewed, but generally the topic has been researched extensively and (hopefully) rigorously and there should be citations to the primary literature. But be careful, not all popular literature is reliable. If the source has a print version that is widely distributed this is an indication that it’s probably reputable. Examples of this would be: National Geographic, Scientific American, Wired. If there is no print version or has a limited subscriber base you may want to look elsewhere.
As much as you can you should cite primary literature (especially for your scientific arguments). You can cite popular literature but there should be some reference to the primary source that the popular article used.
A great place to find scientific, peer-reviewed literature is PubMed. This is curated by the National Institutes of Health and contains citations and links to scientific papers. Please note that resources like bioRxiv and medRxiv are NOT acceptable as scientific-based literature. These are repositories for manuscripts that have not been through peer-review and therefore the validity of the experimental design, results, and interpretation cannot be confirmed. However, these papers may provide useful references to papers that have been peer-reviewed and published and therefore would be acceptable.
The following sections must be included in the paper:
Introduction – use this section to introduce the topic you will talk about. Give background information and context for what the issue is and why it is important. Provide both sides of the controversy here.
Body – This is where you will discuss in more details about both sides of the controversy. Start with one side and present the science and/or pseudoscientific arguments for that side. Scientific-based arguments should cite primary literature. Pseudoscientific arguments will be more difficult to cite because they are generally not published in scientific journals but there may be websites that have a lot of internet traffic and garner a lot of attention. Multiple sources are always a good way to bolster your arguments.
You will then discuss the other side of the argument and again present the science and/or pseudoscientific arguments for that side. With the pseudoscientific arguments, be specific and draw upon the concepts you learned especially in the first part of this course. You need to convince the reader that the pseudoscience is pseudoscience and you need to say more than just, ‘that’s a bad argument’ or ‘the information is fake’.
Conclusion – Who do you think it ‘right?’ What side do you agree with? What more needs to be done? Is more research required, or is there enough scientific consensus? If the latter, how would you propose to convince the public, our politicians, or world leaders?
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