Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are we all (Soil) Science Punks?

When you hear someone or something is 'Punk', we tend to think of rebellious individualism, weird social identities, punk music, crazy hair and fashion, free thought and discontent. We have images of punk couture (see below), loud music, alternative lifestyles in a head. And perhaps the last thing anyone would think about, is how being a 'bit-of-a punk' may actually be essential for scientific success.

Iron Punks from Outer Space
Punks, from outer space (on Flickr by Stefan)

All scientists need to be creative, freely think and express their ideas. Scientists even need to be a little rebellious. These are all attributes that we identify with Punks. Part of a scientists job is to create and develop ideas outside current human knowledge. To do this they:

Apply individual free-thinking
Scientists spend a lot of time pondering on problems. They often do this alone, and may spend hours seemingly doing nothing when they are really working hard to solve a problem. The thinking is important for uh-huh! moments, when an idea or a solution comes to mind.

Collaborate with other free-thinkers for inspiration
Scientists need other scientists to talk too. After a long time thinking, we like to share ideas, bounce ideas off each other. Other free thinkers may have completely different ideas, and two ideas can come together like an explosion; a new concept, idea, brainwave. New science!

Rebellion against normal in pursuit of answers and being creative
Scientists like to push boundaries, be creative, and to rebel against the normality in pursuit of answers. Sometimes the right, known and accepted ways of doing things needs to be thrown out the window in search of answers. Many scientists have had breakthroughs by taking a different path to the normal or what was originally intended. They have creative ideas or play to try and find an answer. This may include: trying new or developing methods; thinking about concepts in a different way from its original intention; or using something in a way it was not originally purposed for etc.

Most scientists will possibly relate to one or more of these 'punk' tendencies as being essential in their research. Scientists, like punks, can be radical, different, and look for alternative ways to doing things. For scientists, 'the Punk' is about improving science, livelihoods and the field of research.

2009YIP/210 Punk Science
Punk science (On Flickr by Angelsk)

But what does being a science punk mean for soil science and research?
Well, the answers are limitless! Pushing the boundaries, having boundless imagination and creativity and sharing ideas with others can only mean solving more problems and creating new solutions in soil science. New soil science, means solving problems like: food security, carbon sequestration, human health and environmental, social and economic sustainability. Finding new answers to improve science and our lives.

For me, being a punk, has led me to all sorts of discoveries about Spolic Anthroposols and how to measure them. What other soil solutions have come from being a punk? Perhaps... working out if there is life in Martian soil? Carbon accounting in soils for a positive climate future? Or maybe every day things we forget about, like the science behind how we go about improving soils for vegetable gardening. And in the future, who knows what a punkish-soil-scientist will find!

Punk; not a punk-scientist (On Flickr by Dr Case)

Perhaps all scientists are really Punks... deep down.

Are you a science punk? What do you think makes you a punk? Do you think that the rules of how we approach science can sometimes stifle our ability to be a science punk? Do you know any science punks that have had soil science breakthroughs? Comments welcome below.

Thanks Sarah, for being my punk muse. ;)

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