Small Science vs. Large Science

Anant Babu Marahatta
Ph.D. student in chemistry
Tohoku University, Japan

Science carried out by individuals or small teams of investigators is said to be “small science” and the science carried out for large scientific data gathering programs is said to be “large science”.

Research done by individuals or small teams of investigators has been crucial for many of the important discoveries made in all branches of science. The individual or small group research work has been the first step for bringing up the revolutionary changes in the world. Such type of research facilitates the researcher to concentrate in the particular problem and hence increases the thinking level of the researchers as well. It has been found that the research work performed by the individuals or by the small teams is more accurate and reproducible. Since every branch of science needs accuracy which in fact catalyses the rate of tailoring and building up the new inventions and discoveries. These discoveries provide the fundamental basis for the application of scientific knowledge to national economic and societal goals.

Small science helps to define the goals and directions of large scientific data gathering projects [so called large science]. In turn, these data feed and are often best synthesized and interpreted by the long-term efforts of the small science community. In small science, the rate of manipulation of data is almost nil due to the accuracy which perfectly orients into the solutions of the problems.

In addition, because small science is typically done at universities, it provides students with an integral involvement in defining and solving scientific problems. Such well prepared manpower will be the pillar of the large science and finally of the nation. Any erosion in small science due to some parameters would therefore weaken not only the entire scientific enterprise, but also our future ability to utilize scientific information for the national good.

Let us imagine that if the experimental problems are carried out haphazardly due to the negligence of the members of the large teams and if the scientific society follows the same result for developing more advanced technology, the conditions will be pathetic not only in terms of wastage of time but also due to the wastage of money and prestige of the country. Thus for bringing up the new technology, the result and research work performed by the small teams [members of small science] are strongly recommended.

Small science, much of which is carried out at universities, is especially well suited to student training. Small science provides the "hands-on" experience that both excites students and teachers them how to attack scientific and technological problems creatively. They also learn the different steps of the research work intensively like from inception of the research idea to presentation of the final results. Research on a small scale is also the primary way that young scientists can establish a record of personal achievement, thus providing the best students with a powerful incentive for pursuing a scientific career.

Enormous superconducting synchrotron particle accelerator
 with circumferences of many kilometers are the examples of
Big Science. Shown above is the Fermi labTevatron
(source Wiki)
On the other hand, with out any work of the large scientific data gathering programs, no country can accept any sort of inventions. Even though the results from small science have been taken for developing the strong foundation of the large science, the work remaining on this stage and is to be completed is highly appreciable. So, on that front, large science is highly applicable. Similarly, small science is only for building up the knowledge but in order to apply this knowledge practically for inventing any sorts of scientific devices, the large scientific data gathering programs must be inserted and utilized.

Some elements for conducting biological, environmental, statistical, geographical, medical, astronomical etc research can only be addressed by large research groups or industry. Then only the impacts of these projects can be implemented to transform the process of research into small laboratories or into small science. In such front, large science dominates over small science.

In large science, the knowledge of the several members can be used and shared which might initiates the new innovative idea that results into the invention of the new technology. If we consider the several macro technologies available to us, we should not forget the large science. Now a day, development of the ideas and creation of global networks and collaborating with different countries is also an emerging example of large science.

On 8th and 10th November of 2007, two very hot scientific results had been published at “Japan Times”, the daily English newspaper of Japan, which were the result of the large science. One is, several scientists have used the antennae of the Moths to construct the most active Robert. Another work was that teams of researchers have studied the patterns of genes of mice and injected new gene which results the creation of new mice having great smelling capacity to detect kittens easily. Thus from these simple and innovative works, every one must understand the contribution of large science. So the correct implementation and computation of the research works is only possible in large science, which are the required issues in the world of this stage.

Thus, the small science and large science are strongly correlated with each other in which due to the absence of either one, the expectation of the world will be nil. The emerging issues on different disciplines of sciences can not be explained by excluding either of them. From a strategic perspective, any erosion of government support for small science is unwise because it reduces the diversity of scientific inquiry. Diversity in scope, which is one of the essential elements of scientific enterprise, is created by the large science. Hence from the national side, both should be treated equally.

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