• Question: What is science trying to provide for the community

    Asked by KeanuA on 19 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Kim Liu

      Kim Liu answered on 19 Jun 2020:


      This is an excellent question; I’d be interested to know what inspired you to ask it 🙂 I think science provides (mostly) two things. 1) it seeks to provide improvements to how humans live, e.g. by giving us better medicine, technology and enjoyable things to do. This also involves trying to predict the future to try and ensure humans continue living as happily/comfortable (insert values here) as possible, so this includes understanding things like climate change, space exploration and and overpopulation.

      2) It is a method of trying to work out the truth ~ the truth is a very hard thing to know, to be sure. Science provides a way of accessing it, for general curiosity, or for making decisions. Science likes to gather repeatable evidence in order to assess how good a theory or hypothesis is. This makes it different to philosophy, for example, which looks to propose ideas about the truth based on their own observations and ideas. Scientific thinking can be used by individuals to solve all kinds of problems unrelated to the standard topics of biology, chemistry and physics ~ I think this is of great benefit to the community also ~

    • Photo: Lisa Backwell

      Lisa Backwell answered on 19 Jun 2020:


      This is a fantastic question! My favourite thing about science is how often it can spark new ideas which can be shared with the community as a whole. This sometimes means we might neglect previous ideas. The critical evidence-based nature of scientific thinking allows us to constantly reassess our values and beliefs. For example, the advance of technology allows us to often look at things in more depth (for instance we have better microscopes that can look at cells in more detail) and sometimes with this extra information, we find out our initial findings were a bit askew. I think this scientific method (1) teaches us not to hold on to our original ideas too strongly and (2) even encourages us to admit we were wrong when the evidence shows it, is a process that is so useful in many aspects of life. 🙂

    • Photo: Melanie Krause

      Melanie Krause answered on 19 Jun 2020:


      Hi,
      Great question! As there are some answers below already I’m going to keep it to what I do: I work on studying how viruses infect cells and how they trick the immune system. There are lots of different viruses and not all do it in the same way, but the better we understand these things the better we can design drugs or treatments for viral infections.
      This is just one very small example but practically ever drug that was developed and is now in use for treating cancer/infection/dementia/heart disease etc. is based on some fundamental finding that comes from science research at Universities or Research Institutions. 🙂

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 19 Jun 2020:


      Hi KeanuA – great Q; not sure if your question relates to (a) the here and now (i.e. during the pandemic) or (b) more generally. For (a) science is leading the way in how we explore, understand, and mitigate the effects of emerging diseases like COVID-19 on the community. Several scientists (including people at our institution) are supporting the community through researching ways of preventing transmission and/or treating COVID-19; some of us are also directly helping with COVID-19 testing of samples collected from the community. You can find out more about how we are supporting the fight against COVID-19 here: https://www2.mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk/lmb-joins-the-fight-against-covid-19/
      For (b) I agree with everything Kim has said – just want to add that science plays a huge role in education; it is critical that we can effectively communicate our findings in a transparent and accessible way to the public so that they can benefit from the things we learn. Science also provides excellent training opportunities (like a ‘springboard’) for people into all kinds of careers from law, to publishing, to industry. I also think one of the most important things science can do for the community is to use evidence to challenge/dispel myths that are based on prejudice, poor-quality data, or poor judgement. In this way, science can help protect the community from the harm/exploitation resulting from potentially dangerous ‘therapies’ or ideas that would discriminate against certain groups of people. Lastly, but perhaps counterintuitively, science is a great inspiration for the arts and artists – music, film, theatre, canvas, poetry and fiction – many artists draw on science for their artwork; many use science to generate new tools or media to create new forms of art. Science and community are inseparable.

    • Photo: Gulnar Abdullayeva

      Gulnar Abdullayeva answered on 19 Jun 2020:


      Hi KeanuA. Thanks for the interesting question.

      Science is everywhere in our life. It is mostly interested in the natural world and tries to understand how it works, where we are in, and what the results of future actions are likely. The application of scientific knowledge allows us to develop new technologies, find solutions to practical problems, provide human needs, and make life easier.

      Today vaccines save many lives; new drugs are discovered against deadly diseases. By learning DNA, we are able to do cloning; by new imaging technologies, we can explore the human body, etc. So many amazing discoveries allow the community to get and send information from somebody around the world in a split second; to study stars and galaxies by using powerful telescopes; to discover and develop alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass energies. There are many such examples.

      There are still lots of questions unanswered. Because science is an absolute curiosity of a human to know more and more details of processes. So this motivates us to wake up every day and engage in science.

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