Anyone who has read my blog up to now (71 people and counting!) will notice that I like to label people as scientists or researchers, but I feel I need to explain the difference between the two.
A researcher, as defined by me, is anyone who works on funded studies with the intention of publishing their results. Researchers are the people who dedicate their lives to science. It is what they spend almost all of their waking time on and it is how they make their living. They are just as worried about where they can get funding for their next project as how they can organize their results to get them published in the highest tier journal. Researchers make up the workforce of science and they are the leaders who carry the standards of progress.
This is a much more encompassing term. A scientist is anybody who ever thought critically about a problem, and solved it empirically. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you put a cd in the microwave, and then put a cd in the microwave? You are a scientist. Being a scientist has nothing to do with intelligence or ability, only the mind to ask a question and the courage to find the answer for yourself. Most people in the world can be considered scientists under this definition, however the connotation of scientist has become synonomous with researcher and so people feel disconnected with the scientific community.
People don’t know they’re scientists and so they feel powerless when the world, as it so often does, confronts them with scientific problems. It is sad to think that the worlds biggest problems are the ones being worked on by the fewest amount of people. It has been shown in the past that regular people are willing to get involved in research, and can indeed provide a great help in discovery. You can find several examples in the article The Growth of Citizen Science by Darlene Cavalier and Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. All we need to do is give people a chance to get involved and they will jump at it.
The biggest tradgedy in the world is that we have so many scientific problems and billions of sleeping scientists
Silvertown J (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in ecology & evolution (Personal edition), 24 (9), 467-71 PMID: 19586682