Rights: The University of Waikato Published 20 November 2007 Download

Nobel prize winner, Sir Paul Nurse, thinks that there may be ways of doing science that do not rely on simply generating and testing hypotheses.

Research often relies on generating and testing hypotheses. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing science in this way?


School student: Do you think we can understand this by generating hypotheses designing experiements to address that single hypotheses or do you think we that there needs to be a change in the fundemental approach to research?

Sir Paul Nurse: I think that science is carried out by different people in different sorts of ways, and that there can be a danger when scientific administrations and so on, the people who dole out money, get too obsessed with one particular way of doing it. And hypothesis-driven science is in the present all the rage particularly in America. And it’s good, hypothesis-driven science, but it is by no means the only way to do investigations. And sometimes just playing around in an area which is interesting and observing what nature tells you can tell you a lot more than by having a very clear hypothesis about it, which is limited by your own brain. You need hypothesis at certain stages of the scientific process, but you also need to, at other stages, make observations, try and get some ideas about what is going on.