What is Science? Part 1

Dec 23, 2013, 12:36 AM

This is the first part of a series attempting to answer the question: What is Science? In this introductory episode, I’m joined by Dr Rebecca Nesbit, David Urry and Dr Penny Fletcher, all from the Society of Biology in the UK. We explore what the word science means to scientific researchers, citizen scientists and those organising citizen science projects. For Rebecca, we discover is that there are similarities between the meaning of science when she's a researcher and when she's organising projects: she thinks about the question that she is trying to answer, and how best to answer it. However, when she's taking part in citizen science projects, it's more about making sure all her data is correct. David thinks citizen science is a way of realising that a lot of what we do already can be considered as citizen science. Because he studied science at university, he has a good understanding of the methods of science, and the "rules associated with it.... It is a serious business." For him, citizen science is then when someone else does the hard work for you and you get to do the fun stuff! But since leaving the world of academia, the meaning of science hasn't changed. What has changed is his appreciation of the different ways of being involved in science. He also believes that those who don’t have a scientific background are not at a disadvantage when it comes to taking part. The projects (if designed properly) will give all the details you need to make sure you can contribute. However, there are some projects that require prior knowledge, so it’s really about finding something you are interested in that is at the right level for you. With Penny, we discuss how she got into citizen science projects, and how they led her into going down the route of public engagement. I ask her what she defines science as to the people she explains it to. Her response is an interesting one, as no-one ever asks “what is science?” They just take what you present to them and relate it to their lives and experiences. This is where she believes citizen science projects need to start. After speaking to them individually, we have a group discussion, reflecting on what was said. We realise that it’s a good thing to get the citizen scientists involved in the planning stages of a project, and that the scientists, as well as citizen scientists can gain insights from this close collaboration. But it’s making it easy for citizens to get involved and feel the value of their work that will really improve the projects. #CitizenScience #Science #CitizensofScience #SocietyofBiology Image credit: SciStarter