Mobile version
spiked plus
About spiked
What is spiked?
Support spiked
spiked shop
Contact us
Summer school
Top issues
Arab uprisings
British politics
Child abuse panic
For Europe, Against the EU
Free speech
Jimmy Savile scandal
Parents and kids
View all issues...
special feature
The Counter-Leveson Inquiry
other sections
 Review of Books
 Monthly archive
selected authors
Duleep Allirajah
Daniel Ben-Ami
Tim Black
Jennie Bristow
Sean Collins
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick
Frank Furedi
Helene Guldberg
Patrick Hayes
Mick Hume
Rob Lyons
Brendan O’Neill
Nathalie Rothschild
James Woudhuysen
more authors...
RSS feed

abc def ghi jkl mno pqrs tuv wxyz index
Survey home
Survey responses
RSS feed
Anjana Ahuja
Julian Baggini
Philip Ball
Marlene Oscar Berman
Gustav VR Born
K Eric Drexler
Marcus Du Sautoy
Edmond H Fischer
John Hall
Tim Hunt
Wolfgang Ketterle
Leon Lederman
Matt Ridley
Raymond Tallis
Frank Wilczek
Lewis Wolpert
Dr Hugh Aldersey-Williams
writer and curator

An important, unrecognised and under-exploited innovation is the division of labour in science that separates observers from analysers. Only the latter need special expertise, meaning that it is possible to devise mass-participation experiments involving scientifically unqualified (but scientifically excited) members of the public. These can collect data on a scale unimaginable if done by grant-funded specialists, but more importantly they can give ordinary members of the public the thrill of contributing to the scientific enterprise. I remember as a child using simple water quality kits provided by The Sunday Times to test for local water pollution. There are echoes of such projects today in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ garden birdwatch scheme or the BBC’s SETI@home project. Such mass experiments won’t discover how the universe or life began, but perhaps they could be used to test climate resilience, monitor biodiversity, learn more about perception and behaviour, and much else.

If you are determined to focus on my field, I would say that as a writer I find two of the greatest innovations to be the tea cosy and digestive biscuits.

Hugh Aldersey-Williams is a writer and curator of the Zoomorphic exhibition of new forms in architecture and Touch Me: Design and Sensation, both at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He is author of Findings: Hidden Stories in First-hand Accounts of Scientific Discovery; The Most Beautiful Molecule, an account of the Nobel prize-winning discovery of a new form of carbon called buckminsterfullerene (buy this book from Amazon(UK)).