Questions, background research, hypothesis, experiments, data analysis, conclusions, repeat.
For all of us that have studied in science, the scientific method was central in our research. By following those steps, you can objectively confront our hypothesis to the reality. It is the obligatory path to move toward new hypothesis trying to explain the phenomenon we observe. However, not everyone has a strong scientific background and is equipped to understand the different phenomenon we are facing in our everyday life.
One of the main problems of science these days, it is that people “feel ignorant” when they are faced in front of science and confronted with the fact that our own knowledge but also the common knowledge always seems limited in comparison of what the human kind really needs or even what should be achieved. Faced with this situation, a minority of people prefer to listen to people who clamor for so-called truths, but who have no real foundation or proof to support their claims. Unfortunately, this trend is widespread or at least more visible today with the advent of social media, but also political power. It has even been publicly recognized that some governmental instances have intentionally interfered with the scientific communication process for political reasons in past years (1, 2). If political leaders do not respect the scientific approach, why should citizens do it?
Such a disinformation process by non-scientific lobbies can even have dramatic implications like we’ve recently seen with the measles outbreaks in America. (3, 4) or the death of people because of pseudoscience instead of providing proven medical care (5,6) In response to these dark times, the scientific community is expressing itself more and more to denounce this situation. An example is the March for Science Organization that promote Science for the Common Good. “You know you’re in trouble when scientists take to the streets.” He’s right. I’ve worked closely with scientists for decades and, by training and temperament, they tend to be happiest in the lab, testing and retesting experiment results – among the last groups of people you might expect to find protesting.” (7)
But what else, as members of the scientific community, can we do to shed light on science and help the general public benefit from scientific advancements? We must continue our efforts to educate the general population and explain through popular science initiatives. For example, locally the “Réseau technoscience” promotes the interest for science and technologies with different activities intended for the youth. The scientific community needs to change the “feel ignorant” state to a “productive ignorance” state (8). In other words, we should embrace the fact that we are all ignorant, that there is a lot to learn and this is why scientific research is still essential. After all science is not a truth, it’s simply an approach that helps us investigate the world that surrounds us and it’s all about questions, background research, hypothesis, experiments, data analysis, conclusions, repeat.