Make science an activity for everyone

Elle Loughran, CREST youth panel member

There is a serious lack of support for anyone except science students and those working in research to satisfy their curiosity by doing scientific research projects.

Everyone has big questions they’d like an answer to – for example, about their own health, both now and in the future, or what the long term effects of genetically-modified crops actually are. These questions impact on our own lives, on those of our families and on our communities – but too often the job of answering them is left to capital-s Scientists. Instead, I think everyone with an interest can and should be facilitated in doing real research, both so they can learn more about science and the process of inquiry and so they can make real contributions to science.

Too often the job of answering those questions is left to scientists, but that can often ignore the impact on our everyday lives. How can we find out what the impact of that research would be on a smaller scale?

I propose a network of local centres where people of all ages carry out hands-on scientific research projects and foster their curiosity and creativity, supported by volunteers who teach scientific knowledge, method and skills.

Users could include primary school children, adult workers in non-science fields and retirees. Run by volunteers from the scientific community, people of all ages could pose their own questions, find the answers and change the direction of scientific research.

There are, of course, plenty of challenges. This idea requires the input of scientists, students and members of the public to donate their time and find a way to borrow/cover the costs of locations, chemicals, and equipment, but I believe that it is the best way to bring science into the public domain and make everyone feel part of it. Science needs to be seen as more than a body of facts but rather a living path to discovery, and this is the way to do it.

Elle Lougran is a blogger,  researcher, book reviewer, freelance writer and secondary school student. She is a member of the British Science Association’s CREST Youth Panel, which advises the BSA on their youth programmes.  

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