Science’s Ten Commandments

Science’s Ten Commandments
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Artwork by Oliver Hoeller

Academics often lazily refer to leaving academia as "leaving science", but what does it actually mean to be a scientist?  

1. A commitment to an objective understanding of the natural world.

2. Obtaining new knowledge through original research, and disseminating that knowledge through publication.

3. Synthesising available facts in order to derive new theories (from the bottom up, not the top down).

4. A commitment to the concept of falsifiability, i.e. creating theories which are capable of being tested to determine whether they are true or not.

5. The testing of theories by experiment, and refining those theories in the light of obtained knowledge.

6. Dissemination of both new and extant knowledge to one’s peers and juniors through teaching.

7. Dissemination of both new and extant knowledge to society through communication.

8. Application of both new and extant knowledge to create new technologies, treatments for diseases, and other products for the betterment of mankind.

9. Tolerance of dissenting viewpoints, and an equality of criticism.

10. Abjuration of the misuse of knowledge to deceive or create division.

It’s worth noting that it would take an almost superhuman effort for a single individual to conform to all ten. Rather, the implication is that a scientist is not just a researcher - i.e. a  PhD/postdoc/group leader working in a university department or research institute and subscribing to points 1-5 – scientists are also the people involved in teaching, communicating, and applying scientific knowledge. These individuals play key roles in the scientific enterprise despite not being directly involved in scientific research. There is also, of course, a lot of scientific research that's done outside academia, especially in the private sector.

A final point is that it is equally possible for the public to be engaged stakeholders in the process. Simply by subscribing to points 1, 9, 10 an individual member of society can consider themselves an invested component in the scientific community. After all, one can be a shareholder in a business without working for the company, or a fan of a team without playing on the pitch.

Originally published on Total Internal Reflection - here.

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