Scientific understanding is constructed, developed and advanced through open sharing of knowledge generated by scientists worldwide. Yet for years that collective knowledge has only been accessible to those who pay exorbitant amounts of money. Now the pressure is building for publishers to change the system, as more and more scientific communities push to bypass or break down the expensive paywalls that restrict access to global scientific progress.
Go through any scientific paper and you’ll find it littered with uncertainty. Scientists qualify parameters, give standard errors, make way for random processes even when experiments have been planned to the finest detail. Even when we get the answers we want, we provide alternative explanations that fly in the face of the assumptions we’re trying to test. Honestly, sometimes it seems like we don’t really ‘know’ anything.
I’ve written about our reluctance to declare that we know things in science before, but here I want to try and answer a couple of questions. Why is uncertainty such a crucial part of science? How does this affect the non-scientific public’s perception of science? And does this relationship with knowledge need to change in the future?