Intended for healthcare professionals

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Learning In Practice

The standardised admission ratio for measuring widening participation in medical schools: analysis of UK medical school admissions by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sex

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 24 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1545

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The motivations of other scientists are problematic to interpret...

I confess I was surprised by the vehemence, length and personal
nature of Dr Morrell’s response to my brief comment on Greenhalgh et al’s
original paper. However, I certainly wouldn’t like Morrell to think I have
not taken his comments seriously, and I hope he will forgive me for not
doing a Michael Portillo or a Matthew Parris, since I was unable to obtain
a lucrative TV contract to live like the poor. I did however follow his
advice and I have read Roscoe’s most interesting 1995 article and much
enjoyed it, since it showed the complexities of using the term positivist
as a pejorative label, and displays much wisdom and anthropological
insight concerning the ways that scientists really work. Perhaps I could
just quote one phrase from it, as it sums up many of the real difficulties
behind disputes such as this, and it shows the dangers of making
ideological interpretations of the motives and cognitions of other
scientists based on short published texts:

“To be sure, many scientists discursively entertain highly
positivistic notions about what they are doing, clothing their practice in
a rhetoric of objectivity, the disinterested collection of facts and the
like. But to suppose that this accurately reflects what they are really
doing is to mistake what the natives say they do for what they actually
do.” (Roscoe, 1995, p.495)

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 August 2004
Chris McManus
Professor of Psychology and Medical Education
, University College London