Modern Science: Understanding the Scientific Method in the 21st Century

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

In the 21st Century we have generated data like never before, while simultaneously challenging the expertise that is vital to our understanding of this information. In this Falling Walls Circle Table, the panel asks how we can best adapt and update the scientific method for modern science.

In spite of new automated tools to analyse huge quantities of data, expert knowledge is still needed in modern science to transform correlations into meaningful conclusions. Algorithms must be designed so that they can share their reasoning, not just their results. And different labs must all use their own methods to test the robustness and reproducibility of any deductions. As Edith Heard explains, “the best way to approach any set of data is to attack it from every possible angle.”

Modern science necessitates collaborations between disciplines, encouraging researchers to learn from other subjects, including the humanities and social sciences. And by working to open up both data and methods, scientists can foster truly open attitudes to research itself.

Sabina Leonelli

University of Exeter

Sabina Leonelli is Professor of Philosophy and History of Science at the University of Exeter, where she co-directs the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis). She is Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (21-22), Alan Turing Institute, Academia Europaea and Académie Internationale de Philosophie de la Science; Editor-in-Chief of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences; and twice ERC grantee. Her books include Data-Centric Biology: A Philosophical Study (2016), Data Journeys in the Sciences (2020) and Data in Society: A Critical Introduction (2021).