Don’t you just love it when they tell you that scientists have invented or developed something, let us say, for example, a new type of sock with scientifically optimized compression for intensive sport and recovery?
This is not science.
People with background in science, i.e. a degree in science, may work on the problem of compression optimization in socks, to be sure. You may even call them researchers, because they do seek to find the answer to a question: How do we optimize compression in socks for intensive sport and recovery? They do so with the help of some of the tools of science; and some of them do work at a university, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they do this or at NASA, where they do this.
But it is not science. The term is R&D or Research and Development.
Now, I am not normally a stickler for categorization; but this is akin to assigning the colour grey to a blue sky: Scientists do not invent or develop things. They do not even just find out about things. They find out about Nature. Scientists do not develop machines or materials – unless it brings them closer to finding out about Nature. But even then, they normally find engineers to do that particular job for them.
Still, yes, scientists are researchers since they seek to find the answer to a question by means of the tools of science. That question, however, is one about, and only about Nature herself.
Alexander is a physicist, teacher and science communicator who is currently working at the Norwegian Centre for Space-related Education at Andøya Space Center in Norway. Even though, in his case, work and play do overlap, the content on this webpage is entirely private. You can follow Alexander on Twitter, Facebook and Google +