That is an interesting situation. Of course it does seem that usually scientists are not as focused as engineers. Sometimes it seems like nobody is as focused as some engineers. Sometimes that is me.
My most fun job as an engineer was supporting a research scientist in the development of a fundamentally new product. I got to do all kinds of things and projects. Of course we were quite focused because we needed to report to a team of potential users and co-developers every week.
But those scientists that don't have such a wonderful motivating team could easily wander. If one includes astronomers as scientists, they have already wandered far away from developing any useful ideas, let alone useful things.
An ongoing frustration I have been experiencing is the difficulty of integrating science and engineering in an R&D project. The scientists appear to want to have free rein to carry out scientific investigations. While at first the investigations are related to the project's goals, increasingly the investigations wander from the path to the soluton to what is fundamentally an engineering problem. The engineers may need more scientific datapoints, but they are not getting them in a timely fashion. Whether the project keeps on schedule seems to depend to a great extent on whether the project is managed by a scientist or an engineer.
Another simple way to understand the difference between engineers and scientists is to look at what they do. Right now a bunch of astonomer type folks who call themselves scientists are investigating what appears to be happening at the edge of the universe, viewing images that they claim to be light emitted thousands of years ago from objects moving away from us at incredible velocities. If their conclusions are wrong, who could possibly tell. And yet they believe it is important to know.
Meanwhile, groups of engineers are working very hard to produce cars that use less energy and are safer to ride in, while other engineers are developing means to filter water in parts of the world where there usually is no water fit to drink. And other engineers are developing ways for these folks to raise more and better food so that they can live longer.
Sometimes you tell the difference by what people work at. Not always, but often.
I see the distinction often in materials development. Some materials are being developed without specific use in mind. That's science. Taking those new materials and using them to solve a problem. That's engineering.
I don't know how to separate the two. I've never met an engineer that wasn't a scientist, and visa versa. Engineering achivements are also scientific and mathematical ones. maybe it's because i work for a car company and we all wear many hats, and things are different at other companies.
My experience with those who claim to be scientist, not lowly engineers, has not been too endearing to the kind, but I do know this; remove all of the engineers and scientist and the world becomes much worse, remove all of the jouralist and the world becomes much better (and take the lawyers with you while your at it). I know, that was harsh.
In the current business I'm employed in, I see a very stark difference between a scientist and an engineer. An engineer detects a variance in equipment performance and designs to minimize it's effect. The scientist sees the same thing and whines that you have to fix it for free.
I was teaching a robotics club at my son's school a couple of years ago and one of the first things we went over was Ohm's Law. One of the students wanted to know why we were learning about it and that was an excellent opportunity to talk about how scientific and electronic principles cross over to many different disciplines. It seems to me that any scientist is going to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Ohm's Law, despite the fact that it is regarded as a foundational principle of electronics. And a good scientist or engineer is going to cross over to what ever discipline is necessary to get the job done. When I was building a weather station you can bet I was studying some meteorology to make sure I understood how to acquire the data correctly.
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