The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method. Peer review, through discussion and debate within journals and conferences, assists in this objectivity by maintaining the quality of research methodology and interpretation of results.
Membership, status and interactionsEdit
Membership of the community is generally, but not exclusively, a function of education, employment status, and institutional affiliation. Status within the community is highly correlated with publication record. Scientists are usually trained in academia through the university system. As such, degrees in the relevant scientific sub-disciplines are often considered prerequisites for membership in the relevant community. In particular, the PhD with its research requirements functions as a kind of entrance examination into the community, though continued membership is dependent on maintaining connections to other researchers through publication and conferences. After obtaining a PhD an academic scientist may continue through post-doctoral fellowships and onto professorships. Other scientists may find employment in industry, think tanks, or the government. Independent researchers tend to be regarded less-highly, though in principle scientists are judged on the caliber of their contributions.
Members of the same community do not need to work together. Communication between the members is established by disseminating research work and hypotheses through articles in peer reviewed journals, or by attending conferences where new research is presented and ideas exchanged and discussed. There are also many informal methods of communication of scientific work and results as well. And many in a coherent community may actually not communicate all of their work with one another, for various professional reasons.
Speaking for the scientific communityEdit
Unlike in previous centuries when the community of scholars were all members of learned societies and similar institutions, there are no singular bodies which can be said today to speak for all of science. In the United States the National Academy of Science sometimes acts as a surrogate when the opinions of the scientific community need to be ascertained by policy makers or the national government, but the statements of the National Academy are not binding on scientists nor do they necessarily reflect the opinions of every scientist in the community. Nevertheless, general scientific consensus is a concept which is often referred to when dealing with questions that can be subject to scientific methodology. While the consensus opinion of the community is not always easy to ascertain, generally the standards and utility of the scientific method have tended to ensure that scientists agree on a standard, mainstream corpus of fact explicated by scientific theory while rejecting ideas which run counter to this realization. Scientific consensus is of such importance to science pedagogy, the evaluation of new ideas, and research funding that critics of the consensus often bitterly complain that there is a closed shop bias within the scientific community toward new ideas (see articles on protoscience, fringe science, and pseudoscience). In response skeptical organizations have devoted considerable amounts of time and money to debunking the claims of those who balk at scientific consensus.