Science behind-the-scenes: Which fields are “real sciences”?

Author: Bryan Moyers

Content Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Molly Kozminsky

Senior Editor: Alisha John

 

 

Well, that field isn’t really science.”

Oh, that’s just a soft science.”

Most people who work in the sciences have probably heard phrases like these.  Translation: that field is lesser.  The physicists say it about everyone lower than them in the pecking order, as do the chemists, biologists, and so on down the line.  The nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford famously said, “All science is either physics or stamp-collecting.”  People argue about this at scientific conferences and in the media.   The science and pop-culture webcomic xkcd has even parodied the issue.

Continue reading “Science behind-the-scenes: Which fields are “real sciences”?”

Communicating science: From Michigan, across the world (wide web)

By Ada Hagan

“Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone” – Albert Einstein

We’ve discussed it on the blog before, but science has a communication problem. Sure, research is performed and shared via research articles or at scientific conferences, but rarely do scientists directly relay results outside of their academic niches. Few scientists disagree with broader science communication in theory, especially since much of the funding for research is provided by taxpayer dollars. And we learned in our first “Science behind-the-scenes” post that the final step of the scientific method is to “communicate your results.” So why is it that researchers don’t interact more with non-researchers regarding science? Part of the issue is that the intense specialization of researchers into a narrow topic, combined with a lack of effective communication training, makes effective communication a difficult task.

Continue reading “Communicating science: From Michigan, across the world (wide web)”

Communicated, not classified: The importance of collaboration in science (Science behind-the-scenes)

By Molly Kozminsky

Close your eyes and picture a scientist. What do you see?

In 1983, David Wade Chambers published results from a study conducted on 4,807 children as they progressed from kindergarten through fifth grade in the United States and Canada. The test? To draw a scientist. In what must rank as one of the most adorable research experiences ever, the drawings were scored for seven indicators of a “standard image of a scientist:”

Continue reading “Communicated, not classified: The importance of collaboration in science (Science behind-the-scenes)”

Defending human health: A thankless job

By Ellyn N. Schinke

Growing up, I was an avid soccer player. But, I never wanted the glory of being a team’s leading scorer. Defense was my home. That is until I scored my first goal. I was elated, but quickly realized that I had never in my time on defense received anywhere near the validation that I had for that goal. I could save goals or shut down the other team’s star player, but that usually went unnoticed. If anything, I was typically criticized for something I didn’t do more often than I was praised for something I did. This experience taught me something important – defense is a thankless job.

The same pattern that I saw in my soccer experience happens all the time with public health.

Continue reading “Defending human health: A thankless job”

Science behind-the-scenes: Correlation and causation

By Bryan Moyers

When talking about scientific issues, the phrase “Correlation doesn’t imply causation” is sometimes thrown around.  But what does it mean?  Science makes statements about cause and effect.  Smoking causes lung cancer.  Carbon emissions cause climate change.  Higher temperatures cause increased violence.  Clearly, scientists have some way of inferring causal relationships.  But how do they grapple with the idea that “Correlation doesn’t imply causation”?  If they don’t use correlation, what tools do they use to infer causation?

Continue reading “Science behind-the-scenes: Correlation and causation”

Science behind-the-scenes: “And that is a scientific FACT!”

By Bryan Moyers

In the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, there is a scene where the quartet of male leads is screaming at their boss.  They are outraged over the hiring of a woman for the position of news anchor.  At one point, David Koechner’s character leans forward over the desk and announces:

“It is anchorMAN, not anchorLADY, and THAT IS A SCIENTIFIC FACT!” Continue reading “Science behind-the-scenes: “And that is a scientific FACT!””

Science behind-the-scenes: (Almost) Everything grade school taught you about science is wrong

By Bryan Moyers

Do you remember being taught the “Scientific Method” in school? There were always slight variations, but it went something like:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Do background research
  3. Form an educated guess (hypothesis)
  4. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment
  5. Analyze your data and draw a conclusion
  6. If your hypothesis is wrong, return to step 3 with a new hypothesis.
  7. Communicate your results

These steps seem like a great tool to introduce students to science.  They’re simple and easy to understand once the teacher explains words like “hypothesis” and “experiment”.  If you’re like me, perhaps you remember it seeming straightforward—scientists follow a linear set of steps that produce powerful results. Teachers drilled that method into us grade after grade.  If only they weren’t completely wrong. Continue reading “Science behind-the-scenes: (Almost) Everything grade school taught you about science is wrong”

Escaping the bunker mentality, part II…

By Kirsti Ashworth

Last week, I introduced the process of transdisciplinary research: an iterative, co-operative approach that brings communities and researchers together to collaborate at all stages of the research process. But given the difficulties of finding funding for traditional scientific research, can this kind of research become a reality? There are plenty of examples out there that suggest it can.

There are already signs of change: many scientists are starting to consider the practical implications and applications of their research, looking beyond the narrow confines of their discipline, and engaging with local stakeholders. International institutes, science co-ordinators, and funding agencies are actively promoting inter- and transdisciplinary research. The field of sustainability is a prime example. Continue reading “Escaping the bunker mentality, part II…”

Escaping the bunker mentality

By Kirsti Ashworth

Save the date! 2016 is the Year of the Future.

A future that’s bright, a future that’s transdisciplinary…

kirsti1.jpg
Image credit: Arnaud Bouissou/MEDDE/SG COP21

On December 13th 2015, the world’s leaders reached a rare consensus and ratified an historic accord designed to limit climate change to 2°C. January 1st 2016 marked the official launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the start of the next Assessment Report for the IPCC. These events have shifted the emphasis from investigating and reporting the physical science behind the unprecedented changes we’re seeing on our planet to identifying and implementing strategies to avoid further change (mitigation) or to minimize their impacts (adaptation).

Continue reading “Escaping the bunker mentality”

It’s a zoo out there: Breaking down communication barriers

By Alisha John

Despite countless trips to zoos across the country, there is one elusive species I have never encountered: Scientia normalis. This species is more often referred to by their common name, scientists. Scientists are not normally seen in public, often preferring to remain in their native habitat of the laboratory. Because of this, stereotypes dominate the perception of the entire species and are often reinforced in popular culture and the media. These stereotypes depict a species of mostly older males with unruly hair, glasses, a white lab coat, and a vial of brightly colored liquid. (*cough* Albert Einstein *cough*) Recently, however, there has been an effort to remove some of the mystery surrounding this species and correct the outdated stereotypes.

scientist
Scientia normalis archetype. Image source

Continue reading “It’s a zoo out there: Breaking down communication barriers”