Cognitive empathy in inter-disciplinary research: The contrasting attitudes of plant breeders and molecular biologists towards rice
I draw attention to the perceptions of and interactions between molecular biologists and scientists engaged in plant breeding in India, who have been attempting to employ molecular biology tools to understand and intervene to improve the rice crop. The present essay suggests that the concept of cognitive empathy is crucial for enabling basic scientists and applied scientists to begin to understand phenomena from the point of view of the other and from the point of view of society at large, and in arriving at solutions that are scientifically feasible and socially acceptable. Socialization into disciplinary cultures, organizational factors and individual anxieties seem to inhibit inter-disciplinary collaboration. The majority of rice breeders and a small group of molecular biologists emphasize the relative merits of marker-assisted selection (MAS) in the near term vis-à-vis the currently controversial transgenic approach for rice crop improvement in India.