Research Report #2:
What Is a Science?
“A science” is best described by what has been developed over the centuries and what exists in the natural sciences today. This is not an easy job, and many people will challenge my description. It would help the teaching of science if we had an official description. Many point out that this is difficult because science is an ever-changing discipline.
There are two parts to the question “what is a science?”;
1. The organized sciences
2. Subjects made into sciences by extensive research using the scientific method
The Organized Sciences
Feature 1 – A community of specialized practitioners exists. This community exists with members such as top leaders, researchers, professors, teachers, and allied professional people. These communities are not limited to the natural sciences.
Feature 2 – The practitioners usually follow the scientific method and its code of ethics and culture in their research, planning, publications, etc. There may be a licensing organization for the profession.
Feature 3 – There are professional organizations that represent the profession and require the use of the scientific method. They usually have journals, books, and internet sites. Professional meetings are normally held at which matters concerning the profession are discussed.
Feature 4 – Papers describing the results of research based on the scientific method are presented for peer review and publication in journals and at meetings.
Feature 5 – There is rivalry and competition to be first to find “the truth” (actually, as always, as close to the truth as can be determined).
Feature 6 – After publication, the papers are modified, rejected, accepted, tested. However, there may be a diversity of opinions of their accuracy. The ability of others to duplicate the claims of the research papers is of critical importance to their final acceptance. Eventually, there is an accumulated body of reliable knowledge in the area of specialization. this is always open to further refinement, rejection, or extension.
Note: Under the above definition an organized group of practitioners who are not required to follow the standards of the scientific method are not really a “science.”
The knowledge of many of the individual features of various subjects has increased tremendously in recent years. Some are now organized sciences. Others are just little “sciences” or bodies of knowledge. Thus almost any subject can be made into a science of the subject if it has been extensively researched following the scientific method. However, there may not be journals or other peer reviewed ways in which to present the research. This detracts from the reliability of the knowledge presented. However, the individuals or team making a “science” of a specialized subject are performing a social service of importance to the world’s knowledge base.
We are in a complex age today, and the research going on now and in the future means that it is important to understand the principle of specialized “sciences” of almost any subject made by extensive research following the scientific method.