Science’s primary activity is discovery. It aims to explain how the world works and we can use that knowledge to change our world. To do so, over the centuries, the scientific method was developed, and it has proven its value. It helps us answer practical, but often important, questions. Answering these questions often lead to innovations that improve our world.
Discovery is done through observation and what researchers discover is written down, which we call data. This data can reveal structure (describing an object numerically) or behaviour (written descriptions about an organism or object). These observations are not the end-goal.
To understand what is going on, researchers need to analyse the data and generate generalisations based on observations. These generalisations help to make predictions, which are then tested through carefully controlled experiments to see if they stand firm. The objective is to prove or disprove the original hypothesis and with that answer the original question. The results are shared through scientific papers, which are presented to the academic world for thorough scrutiny.
The Scientific Method
The scientific process has to be systematic, which means that other researchers should be able to repeat the test to verify the results. It is therefore important that the data remains available after the initial experiment. Once a finding has been presented, other researchers not only aim to verify the results but also aim to falsify the statements made. Falsification means the act of trying to falsify a statement, hypothesis or theory. The more falsifications fail, the stronger the original statement, hypothesis or theory. This can be summarised as the scientific method: ask questions, make hypotheses and collect observations to test those hypotheses.
The scientific method is based on observations and tests, and it has led to a collaborative endeavour resulting in ever incremental knowledge. As such, a crucial component of the scientific method is to share the observations and tests with the rest of the world through scientific papers. Often, our knowledge can be advanced the most when someone presents a radical new idea, which is subsequently published and verified, resulting in a new branch of knowledge…