Meanings of the Word ‘Science’

I’ve realised that up until now I have largely ignored the question of what the word ‘Science’ means. In terms of science communication and visual representation, it is worth considering the answer. The following is offered by Siân Ede (Ede, 2000, p.165).

‘Science’ has at least four discrete meanings.

[1] Science can mean knowledge itself, which suggests a conflation of the subject known and the knowledge we possess of it.

[2] Science is also a method of discovery, an intellectual endeavour which draws on agreed rational processes.

[3] The word is used to represent the scientific community at large, and appears to suggest that this community acts as one, in total agreement.

[4] And it is used to refer to a technological application of the discoveries of science to the activities of the world we live in.

The first two meanings are of particular interest to the visual communication of science. The first is any subject that is or has been of interest to scientists. This covers the natural world, from the solar system and beyond, the weather, trees, plants, through to the smallest cell and further to subatomic particles. The second meaning concerns the methods by which scientists study their subject matter. To be of interest, science communication speaks about subjects currently of interest to scientists, often with mention of the methods they are using to explore their questions.



Siân Ede, ‘Fission or Fusion: Art, Science and Society’, in Strange and Charmed: Science and the Contemporary Visual Arts, ed. Siân Ede (London, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2000).

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