RESEARCH APPROACHES AND PERFORMANCE OF ACADEMICS – A SHORT ESSAY ON POTENTIAL EPIGENETICS’ EXPLANATIONS
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Adriana Zaiț: University Alexandru Ioan Cuza Iasi
Network Intelligence Studies, 2018, issue 11, 7-10
Scientists have tried to find out what are the main mechanisms explaining human behavior – genes or environment, nature or nurture? For a long period of time, cognitive-developmental and behavior-analytic approaches to the study of human behavior have been considered as totally incompatible, yet today organismic and contextualist perspectives are more and more often brought together by scientists from various fields of research. Behavioral epigenetics, a really young and controversial branch of science, applies epigenetics’ principles to the study of various physiological, genetic, environmental and developmental mechanisms of human behavior. This is why a question arised – could we apply the same principles for academic research? Behavioral epigenetics could explain academic behavior in terms of preferred research approaches and designs, productivity and performance, publishing or collaboration between individuals, as a consequence of exposure to environmental adversity (lack of financing, hard competition for funds), social stress (deteriorating image and position of researchers in society) or traumatic experiences (frequent change in financing and promotion criteria, article rejection and negative reviews). Additive influences of nature and nurture type of factors on the development of exceptional competences and performance have already been intensively studied, and lately attention shifted to the interactions and reciprocation of nature and nurture, including nature mediated or revealed through nurture. Studies suggest that physiological and psychological characteristics acquired during the lifespan could even be transmitted as a kind of soft inheritance, which could explain a specific behavior. In fields as health, medicine and biology, as well as in cultural studies, analysis performed on twins growing up in different environmental conditions may offer an answer as far as epigenetics is concerned. In academic research, some clues could be offered by analyzing researchers from genetically related countries, such as Romania and Moldova, grown up and developed in significantly different environmental conditions. The present essay tries to launch into discussion this potential explanation, recognizing that significant conceptual shifts and further research would be needed to fully understand the dynamic of interactions between genes, environment, epigenetics, social and economic processes for the behavioral changes of academics in terms of research involvement and academic performance.
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