Should we train scientific generalists?

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Sarma, Gopal
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I examine the topic of training scientific generalists. To focus the discussion, I propose the creation of a new graduate program, analogous in structure to existing MD/PhD programs, aimed at training a critical mass of scientific researchers with substantial intellectual breadth. In addition to completing the normal requirements for a PhD, students would undergo an intense, several year training period designed to expose them to the core vocabulary of multiple subjects at the graduate level. After providing some historical and philosophical context for this proposal, I outline how such a program could be implemented with little institutional overhead by existing research universities. Finally, I discuss alternative possibilities for training generalists by taking advantage of contemporary developments in online learning and open science.