Introduction to Science Backstage

Read this series of Science Backstage if you have ever wanted to know what scientists do all day and how they produce knowledge.

In school we are taught that science delivers facts about the world – nobody teaches us that science is a (never-ending) process. “We’d all studied science as if it’s a series of logical steps between question and answer, but doing research is nothing like that” says Uri Alon his TED talk “Why science demands a leap into the unknown”.

Movies just reinforce this enchanted view of science, representing an ideal community, a group of selfless people sharing knowledge to reach a higher goal. This perpetuates the idea that science is intrinsically objective, cooperative and that it involves universal sharing of data and outputs.

Reality in science looks different. I find it important to raise awareness that science is “knowledge in process”  instead of a generator of scientifically proven, unequivocal knowledge. So what can and cannot we expect from science and scientists, who actually are humans too?

This series of articles might appear very critical of science, which is my intention. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that scientists discover and produce knowledge that is incredibly valuable for our society. However, I find it important to also talk about the backstage of science and its shortcomings in order to portray a more realistic image of science than is usually presented to the public. Only that way we can ponder on what can be done to support researchers to perform high quality science, which was also the goal of my PhD research:

In 2015, I completed a Master in Astrophysics to follow my dream of uncovering the fundamental laws of our universe. However, during my studies I became increasingly unhappy with the way academia works. Therefore, I switched from Astrophysics to the Science Studies – a field in the social sciences which studies the circumstances under which research is performed and what that means for the knowledge produced. From 2015 to 2021, I was working on my PhD in this field. To quote a friend, my topic was about the reasons why I did not pursue a PhD in Astrophysics.

I therefore write from the perspective of a researcher with a scientific heart and being critical of the culture prevailing academia. This series Science Backstage consists of the following episodes:

Table of Content

  1. Episode 1: From wanting to become an astronaut to my identity crisis
  2. Episode 2: My discovery of the “Meta Sciences”
  3. Episode 2.1: The enchanted view of science
  4. Episode 2.2: CUDOS – The values of science

Written by Julia Heuritsch | Last edited: 21st June 2022