Lab Talk: What is research like?

Borrowed from farm7.staticflickr.com; credit to biology101.org

So I’ve been thinking about how to talk about science and what to talk about. And this topic was inspired by something I heard in a meeting for an outreach club. They talked about exposing children in school to the process of science, and it got me thinking about what I’ve noticed in terms of how non-scientists think of science.

I’ve noticed from the conversations I’ve had and from the internet that non-scientists tend to think of science in terms of facts. Like that science is some rigid thing determined by some unknown process. Or that it’s something that moves way, way faster than it actually does, because if you don’t know how it’s happening, it looks like magic, right? The portrayal of science on TV probably doesn’t help.

And it’s definitely not how I think of science. Different people will give different responses on how they think of science, but I don’t imagine most scientists will talk about in terms of facts. It’s not so much about knowing as it is about finding out. For me personally, it’s an exploration, and that’s possibly the thing I love most about it. When we do research, we’re finding out something completely new. That’s the point. We don’t necessarily know what we’re going to get.

The really important thing is being thorough in the planning and interpretation of the experiment. We may be looking at new data, but we need to be able to know what it does and doesn’t suggest. In general, I think the scientific community has a decent structure to be able to incorporate new information without jumping to conclusions. Which is why I’d recommend going with the general consensus of the scientific community unless you’re personally researching the topic yourself.

How do you guys think of science, in general?

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