Barriers to participation

Making meaningful contributions to a field of research is difficult and requires extensive training. The scientific community has adopted a meritocracy of academic credentials to ensure that the limited financial and educational resources earmarked for research are distributed to members of the scientific community who have the expertise to effectively utilize them. This academic hierarchy serves a necessary role that helps maintain a productive research ecosystem. Unfortunately, like most social hierarchies it also marginalizes certain socioeconomic groups and puts restrictions on who can learn from and participate in the scientific community. It results in:

  • Reduced Diversity of Thought: The demographics of advanced degree holders in STEM does not accurately mirror the global population. In addition, by requiring formal academic training, STEM research makes it difficult for experts in professions outside of academia to contribute to scientific discussion. For example, It is not hard to imagine how a life-long farmer without academic credentials could contribute to advances in the field of botany if given the opportunity and incentive.

  • Reduced Size of the Scientific Community: For many, the decade of formal training required to receive an advanced STEM degree and participate in research is not an option. Science should follow in the footsteps of the open-source code community and leverage the internet to provide an avenue for anyone to teach themselves the minimum required skills to contribute.

While the academic-hierarchy of research science serves an important purpose, it ultimately holds the community back from reaching its full potential by leaving sources of potential creativity and contribution untapped. Modern technology has made the academic hierarchy redundant, and it is time the research community adopt a more inclusive meritocracy to govern scientific expertise.

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