Prof. Aronova brought up the idea of citizen seismology, a specific type of citizen sciences in her articles and her lecture. I have always had a sophisticated impression on the citizen sciences. On the one hand, I believe it is an effective way to spread out the idea and enhance the influence of science to the larger public. In fact, many institutions also have similar science promotion programs, such as Colby’s CAPS program. On the other hand, however, many citizen scientists are constantly not accepted by the mainstream science community and face the risk of spreading fake-science when lack of systematic training. Here I do not intend to discredit the whole citizen scientists community. In fact, many of Ronnie’s arguments in her article highly resonate with me. But as I mentioned in class, this discussion of citizen sciences reminded me of the recently heated debate in China on “folk scientists” (民科).
Folk scientists is a even broader idea than citizen scientists and is sometimes used with a negative direction. A common definition is the people who study sciences in systems of knowledge about the workings of the natural world that are not based on the scientific method, often relying instead on either intuition or empiricism in its crudest form. In China, it usually refers to those who are fascinated in their own world of science and refused to acknowledge the knowledge system we have today. A very famous case in China was 12 years ago, a mom from Sichuan province sued her husband, Tiejun Li, for violating the compulsory education law because he insisted to withdraw their 9-year-old daughter from school. He believed that the school couldn’t teach anything valuable and that only his own education methods could make his daughter a magnetic biologist in 10 years. Noted that Tiejun was a former factory worker since he graduated from middle school and he quit his job decades ago to dedicate in proving his own theory on the extinction of dinosaurs. Failing to convince Tiejun to send his daughter back to school in any ways, the reporters revisited this family ten years later and found that their 20-year-old daughter was only educated in level of 7th grade student. Tiejun’s case made me rethink the influence that folk scientists had on their surrounding people and on the larger society. I wondered to what extent we should appreciate their work and to what extent we should discourage them. The 9 years compulsory education was not implemented in China until 1986 so that the citizen cultural quality still needs improvement. We also can’t ignore the significant education resource differences between cities and rural China. All these factors point to the importance of education in a country. I think the problem is not to ban the existence of folk scientists, but to make the basis of science more accessible. The key is to guarantee the basic level education and then encourage different forms of scientific studies, which is the way China tries to follow through our compulsory education program. Recently, the government also proposed to extend the program to 12 years and I believe there is certainly still a long way for us to go.