Are you a raw beginner? It is hard for beginners to understand science, research, and scientists, so most just ignore them! In this dispatch I explain some points so you will be able to understand more on what science and research are all about!
Why is scientific research needed?
We need to know more about ourselves, our world, and our universe in order to be able to do more (e.g., treat and cure more diseases, rescue everyone from pollution, produce healthier food, make cheaper gasoline, etc.).
How does science differ from engineering?
Scientists work to discover new knowledge. They evaluate the truth by observing, measuring, and experimenting. Engineers work to develop or improve some commercial product (e.g., better batteries, steam-powered autos, more sensitive and safer machines, faster trains, etc.). Both are very useful to society!
Are inventors the same as scientists?
Inventors make some new object or device. Anyone can be an inventor, even you! Some scientists also are inventors (i.e., by making a new attachment for one of their research instruments). Inventors generally are not scientists (i.e., they do not have graduate degrees or teach at universities).
Why are salaries for scientists so much more than I get?
The average doctoral biomedical scientist working as an Assistant Professsor at U.S. academic institutions in 2015 received a salary of about $91,000 per year . The average salary for senior biomedical scientists working as a Full Professor was around $152,000 per year . Please note that these are averaged figures that ignore regional locations, science subspecialties, years of employment, etc. Salary levels for faculty scientists are based primarily their highly specialized expertise, ability to do both teaching and research, and very extensive education taking over 10 years (i.e., after 4 years in a college, they typically spend 3-8 years in graduate school, plus 2-5 more years as a postdoctoral trainee).
Why is modern research so expensive?
Research to make discoveries of new knowledge requires obtaining accurate results from measurements and experimental tests by salaried research workers (e.g., professional scientists, postdoctoral fellows, technicians). Most experiments use special supplies, expensive instruments, and special facilities within a laboratory. Since the experiments in a typical research project last from weeks to years, the total costs are substantial.
Who pays for scientific research? Do you pay?
Payment for research expenses primarily comes from 2 separate sources: taxes paid by the public, and business profits in industrial companies. Yes, you pay for research!
Why is money so important in modern science?
Everything costs and someone must pay! No research gets done unless expenses are paid for! Awards of taxpayer dollars are given by governmental science agencies to support worthy research studies by scientists. These awards are termed research grants, and all scientists at universities, medical schools, and technology institutes compete for them so they can conduct research investigations.
Why do some scientists kill animals for their research project?
Research on diseases, nutrition, and toxic chemicals often is impossible to conduct directly on humans, so the needed studies must use experiments with laboratory mice, rats, or other suitable animals. Since humans are not mice (and only certain humans are rats!), the results from animal-based studies must be extended by clinical researchers onto humans. Computer models can be used for some research, but those results later must be verified by tests on animals and humans. Scientists I know feel bad about using animals for their research, but accept that such is necessary to get the needed new knowledge.
Scientists on TV always are either weird or maniacs; why are all scientists like that?
They are not like that! The phony Hollywood model for scientists is only aimed to be entertaining! Unlike in TV and movies, real scientists are strongly individualistic, very dedicated to their research work, want to make important discoveries, like to laugh, and work very hard. A real scientist might be one of your neighbors (if so, see if you can chat with them or visit their lab)!
Why are scientist so evil (e.g., nuclear bombs, genetically modified organisms (GMO), fraudulent drug studies, hidden poisons, etc.)?
Your view of scientists confuses what they actually discover from research studies, with what practical outcomes develop later. The instances that you cite were developed in response to making advances in agriculture, developing new chemicals for specific purposes, producing the needs for warfare, etc. What you view as evil, other people see as being useful and even good! Never forget that scientists are people, and they do make mistakes and have some faults. I join you in damning cheaters who hide or change test results and market new drugs that actually harm patients, hiders of labeling GMO foods, and, commercial vendors of disguised poisons.
Why can’t all research be focused only on making the next really big discovery?
Research discoveries depend upon scientists who work best as individuals or in small groups. Forcing all scientists to work only on one super-project and giving them unlimited money for research, is not likely to reach the desired goal because that condition limits freedom of individuals to think, explore, and ask questions. Those characteristics are basically required in scientific research! Consider the analogy where everyone is forced to drive a Chevy, and no other cars are permitted on the roads!
I don’t understand the Nobel Prizes! Wasn’t Nobel a destructive monster?
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was a scientist in chemistry, and also a builder, businessman, engineer, industrialist, inventor, traveller, and writer. He made lots of money from inventing dynamite after years of work, and willed his fortune to establish several ongoing big prizes for scientists whose research provided the greatest benefit to all humans (see: “The 2016 Nobel Prizes in Science are Announced” ). Dynamite remains very useful for construction, levelling mountains, and mining. Regarding your question, you should know that his brother was killed by an unplanned explosion during the development of dynamite, Nobel lived and workedk on several continents, and he wanted to benefit humanity. His very eventful life is nicely described in 2 illustrated pieces (see: “Alfred Nobel – St. Petersburg, 1842-1863”, and, “Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work” ).
What does science and research mean to me, a raw beginner?
Please see my earlier article: “What Does Science Matter to Me, an Ordinary Person?” ! You will be surprised to learn that scientific research impacts everything you do and are (e.g., aging, dreams, health, internet, personality, sex, success at sports, travel, your job, etc.).
What does modern science need to produce more important research discoveries?
In my opinion, modern science needs the addition of more freedom, more curiosity, asking many more questions, longer research grants, better honesty, lots of patience, plus its separation from commercialism, government, and political correctness!
I hope the above has given you a better understanding about science and research! Once your curiosity is stimulated, you can have lots of fun looking at many videos, articles, and stories about science on the internet!
 Zusi, K., and Keener, A.B., for The Scientist, 2015. “2015 Life Sciences Salary Survey”. Available on the internet at: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/44275/title/2015-Life-Sciences-Salary-Survey/ .
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