There’s no denying that everyone likes to see science happening on a large scale. From humans being launched into space and setting foot on the moon, to the development of vaccines or cures for deadly diseases, to the military’s research into a type of garment that renders its wearer virtually invisible, these are some of the thrilling examples of science happening on a large and public stage. Such developments are good for science, too, because they get the general public excited about what can be accomplished and encourage more funding for projects.
Yet small-scale science is very important, too. In fact, many would argue that big science only happens because of small science. Larger funded projects build upon the discoveries made by small science. Small science isn’t just about the types of discoveries that advance our knowledge, often without grabbing headlines. Sometimes the discoveries made by amateurs, a single scientist, or a small group of scientists can be as remarkable and exciting as those made by large budget groups of scientists with government or private funding. After all, Alexander Flemingdiscovered penicillin by accident after he left a dish open containing a staph culture and found a mysterious mold growing around it the following morning.
This is not to say that science, both big and small, doesn’t need major funding and backing. Some types of science simply can’t be done without equipment that it would be impossible for an individual or group to obtain alone, and scientists must also be afforded some sort of income while they are discovering exciting things about the universe and the world around us. Some science also works best as a cooperative effort between efforts. In this way, the best and the brightest of the world are brought together to share their ideas, and no one nation bears the entire cost of the innovations brought about by science.
How do landmark discoveries of big and small science stack up? Are they equally important and worthy of funding?