Filling the Empty Niches

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William H. Calvin

Abstract

A niche, in ecology, is all that a species needs to function: the right food, climate, protection from predators, nesting sites, migration routes, and so forth. An empty niche is a proven niche going unused – say, that of the late Stephen Jay Gould. I argue that the popularization successes in an adjacent field, evolutionary biology, suggest that a similar niche is there for popularizing cognitive neuro. The scientist contemplating writing for a wider audience will often assume that others in the field will be critical, that such a writer will constantly have to justify simplifications or omissions. Or that others will be suspicious that the writer is seeking fame via bypassing the long hard grind of academic publication. While such comment surely happens on occasion, the writer is more likely to be nearly invisible within their own field, even if moderately-well-known outside the field. The reason for this invisibility is simple. Scientists are also general readers. They only have so much time to read, and so they mostly read outside their own field until a new grad student suggests your book for a reading list.

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Keywords
popularization of science
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