Where does creativity fit into science?
I have some rationalizing to do here. The subtitle of Science Or Not? is “separating science from nonsense”, and that describes my main purpose. So how does a series on creativity fit into this purpose?
I think a lot of people to whom creativity is important see science as having a different mode of thinking. They see it as authoritarian, mechanical, routine and unimaginative, and because those things don’t fit in with their way of thinking, they tend to avoid accepting the scientific way, and reject much of its advice. That leaves them open to pseudoscience and bogus science, the things that Science Or Not? is against. I reckon that if I can show that the scientific process is just as creative as other fields, they will be more inclined to trust it.
At the moment, I’ve identified eight activities within the scientific process that I’d like to illuminate because I think they require the exercise of creativity.
- Devising research programs – identifying problems that might be solvable and breaking them down into manageable projects.
- Devising models – constructing alternative models to explain phenomena.
- Devising tests for models – designing tests falsify/support models.
- Dealing with the unexpected – modifying tests and models to take account of surprises.
- Making connections – discovering links between previously unconnected phenomena and developing the significance of these.
- Projecting future research directions – extrapolating discoveries to open up new possibilities for research
- Collaborating with other scientists – coming up with imaginative and productive collaborations.
- Communicating discoveries – finding effective ways of communicating discoveries to peers and the public.
I’d appreciate any feedback on the suitability of these topics and whether the whole exercise is worthwhile. I’ll be continuing the usual posts on Red Flags and Let’s check the science interspersed with the creativity posts.
Creativity photo by deichgnu on flickr.