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The word science ( Middle High German  wizzen [t ]schaft = knowledge, prior knowledge, approval; Latin scientia ) denotes the totality of human knowledge , knowledge and experience of an era, which is systematically expanded, collected, preserved, taught and passed on.

The science is a system of knowledge about the essential characteristics , causal relationships and regularities of nature , technology , society and the thought that in the form of, concepts , categories , Maßbestimmungen, laws, theories and hypotheses is fixed.

The science is the totality of knowledge and experiences that relate to a subject area and are in a context of justification. The knowledge of a limited subject area characterizes the individual science , which is divided into a theoretical and an applied area and, with progressive differentiation, can produce a number of sub-disciplines.

Science also describes the methodical process of intersubjectively comprehensible research and knowledge in a certain area, which according to conventional understanding produces well-founded, ordered and secured knowledge. Methodologically, science identifies the knowledge that is secured and placed in a rational context, which can be communicated and verified and which follows certain scientific criteria. Science thus designates a coherent system of statements, theories and procedures that have been subjected to strict tests of validity and are linked to the claim of objective, supra-personal validity.

Also called Science and the totality of the scientific institutions and scientists working there. In their work, they are committed to specific values ​​and customs and should comply with principles of scientific ethics. They are in a relationship of mutual influencing to politics and society.

Word origin

The German word Wissenschaft is a compound that is made up of the word knowledge (from Indo-European * u̯e (i) d or * weid- for behold, see) and the Old High German noun scaf (t) or skaf (t) (texture, Order, plan, rank). Like many other German compound nouns with the ending "-schaft", it was created in the course of the noun word formation of Old High German in the Middle Ages . The previously independent noun scaf (t) or skaf (t) became a suffix . In this sense, it denotes the nature or order of knowledge.


The history and development of science is explored in the academic discipline of the history of science. The development of human knowledge of the nature of the earth and the cosmos and the historical emergence of the natural sciences are part of it, for example the history of astronomy and the history of physics . There are also connections to the applied sciences of mathematics , medicine and technology . Thales already demanded that science be provable, verifiable, and its results repeatable and purposeless. The philosophical preoccupation with epistemological knowledge and methods goes back historically to Aristotle in antiquity, now called philosophy of science .

Scientific enterprise

An early documented form of organized science-like teaching can be found in ancient Greece with the Platonic Academy , which (with interruptions) lasted into late antiquity . Modern science traditionally takes place at universities , but now also at other universities that are based on this idea. In addition, people who create knowledge (scientists) also work at academies , offices, privately financed research institutes , consulting firms and in business . In Germany, an important public "funding organization" is the German Research Foundation , which funds project-related research at universities and non-university institutions. There are also “research organizations” such as the Fraunhofer Society , the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers , the Max Planck Society and the Leibniz Association , which operate their own research institutes - financed by the federal government and the federal states. In Austria the DFG corresponds to the Fund for the Promotion of Scientific Research (FWF) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), in Switzerland and France the national research funds . Other funds are z. B. endowed by large industries or the European Patent Office .

In addition to scientific publications , the exchange with other researchers takes place through specialist conferences , at congresses of international umbrella organizations and scientific unions (e.g. IUGG , COSPAR , IUPsyS, ISWA, SSRN) or the UN organization. Invitations to seminars , institute visits, working groups or visiting professorships also play a role. Stays abroad and international research projects are also of great importance.

For interdisciplinary research, a number of institutes have been created in the last few decades in which industrial and university research work together (science transfer). However, some companies also have their own research facilities in which basic research is carried out.

Actual participation in the scientific community is fundamentally not linked to any prerequisites or conditions: scientific activity outside the academic or industrial scientific community is open to everyone and is also legally covered by the freedom of research . Universities also offer participation in teaching as guest auditors without any preconditions . However, essential scientific achievements outside of a professional context have remained the absolute exception. State-paid professional activity as a scientist is usually tied to the requirement of completing a degree, for which in turn the university entrance qualification is required. Leading, publicly funded positions in research and the application for public research funds require a doctorate , professorship , and usually a habilitation . In the USA, instead of the habilitation, the tenure track system is used , which was also to be introduced in Germany in the form of the junior professorship in 2002 , although it is criticized that a real tenure track, in which the young scientists are given a permanent position in the event of corresponding performance is guaranteed, is still an exception in Germany.

Accordingly, science certainly represents a labor market that is subject to certain economic cycles , in which the young people in particular take a high risk given the small number of permanent positions.

For science policy become more important has science research , scientific practice with empirical methods to investigate and attempt to describe. Among other things, methods of scientometry are used. The results of science research have an influence on decisions within the framework of the evaluation .

The sociology of knowledge examines social issues within the scientific community as well as the social contexts and relationships between science, politics and the rest of society .

Philosophy of science

The philosophy of science is both a branch of philosophy and an auxiliary science of the individual subject areas, for example as the philosophy of natural science . It deals with the self-image of science in the form of an analysis of its requirements, methods and goals. In particular, their claim to truth is critically questioned. For research looking for new knowledge, the question of the methods and prerequisites for obtaining knowledge is particularly important. This question is dealt with in epistemology .


Research begins with a question that may arise from previous research, a discovery or from everyday life. The first step is to describe the research question in order to enable a targeted approach. Research advances in small steps: The research problem is broken down into several self-contained sub-problems that can be worked on one after the other or by several researchers in parallel. When trying to solve his sub-problem, the scientist is in principle free to choose the method. It is only essential that the application of his method leads to a theory that is objective, i.e. H. makes intersubjective, verifiable and comprehensible statements about a general situation and that corresponding control tests have been carried out.

When a sub-problem has been solved to satisfaction, the publication phase begins. Traditionally, researchers write their own manuscript about the results of their work. This consists of a systematic presentation of the sources used, the methods used, the experiments and control experiments carried out with full disclosure of the experimental set-up, the observed phenomena ( measurement , interview ), if necessary the statistical evaluation, description of the theory and the verification of this theory. Overall, the research work should be documented as completely as possible so that other researchers and scientists can understand the work.

As soon as the manuscript has been drafted, the researcher submits it to a book publisher, scientific journal or conference for publication . There the editor first decides whether the work is interesting enough and thematically appropriate e.g. B. for the magazine. If this criterion is met, he forwards the work for the assessment ( scientific peer review ) to several reviewers. This can be done anonymously (without specifying the author). The reviewers check whether the presentation is comprehensible and without omissions and whether the evaluations and conclusions are correct. A member of the journal's editorial committee acts as a middleman between the researcher and the reviewers. This gives the researcher the opportunity to correct major errors before the work is made available to a larger group. When the process is complete, the manuscript will be published. The results of the work, which are now accessible to everyone, can now be checked further and raise new research questions.

The research process is accompanied by a constant lively exchange between the scientists in the research field. At specialist conferences, the researcher has the opportunity to make his solutions to the research problems he has worked on (or insights into his current attempted solutions) accessible to a group of colleagues and to exchange opinions, ideas and advice with them. In addition, the Internet , which consists to a large extent of research networks, has significantly shaped the exchange between scientists. While e-mail made it possible to exchange personal messages almost in real time very early on, e-mail discussion lists on specialist topics also enjoyed great popularity (originally from 1986 on the LISTSERV basis in BITNET ).


Teaching is the activity in which a scientist passes on the methods of research to students and gives them an overview of the current state of research in his field , e.g. as a teaching building . This includes

  • the writing of textbooks in which he puts his knowledge and findings in writing and
  • conveying the material in direct contact with the students through lectures, exercises, tutorials, seminars and internships, etc. These events are organized by the respective lecturers independently and, if necessary, also conduct independent examinations ("freedom of teaching" within the meaning of Art. 5 para 3 sentence 1 var. 4 GG ).

For the requirements for participation in teaching as a student and the forms and processes, see Studies .

Values ​​of science

The values ​​of science are aimed at delivering a description of what is analyzed that is as precise and value-free as possible.

  • Clarity : Since the description is in writing, possible errors are avoided here by defining the terms used (the Definiendum ) as precisely as possible (the Definiens ) in the introduction. The definition itself is kept as simple and concise as possible so that it can be understood by everyone.
  • Transparency : The work contains a description of how the relationships and facts were worked out. This description should be as complete as possible. This includes references to other scientific work that was used as a basis. A reference to non-scientific work is avoided, as this would shake the whole building of the work.
  • Objectivity : A treatise contains only facts and objective conclusions. Both are independent of the person who wrote the treatise. It follows the principle of realism . When drawing conclusions, avoid falling into the false correlation trap .
  • Verifiability : The facts and relationships described in the work can be verified by anyone at any time ( validation and verification ). The above-mentioned principle of transparency serves as the basis. If the check fails (scientifically verifiable), the work must be corrected or withdrawn without any ifs or buts ( falsification ). This ensures the truth of the sum of all scientific papers.
  • Reliability : The facts and relationships described in the thesis remain stable over the periods stated in the thesis or at least over a sufficiently long period of time.
  • Openness and honesty : The work illuminates all aspects of a topic neutrally and honestly, not just isolated aspects selected by the author. This gives the reader a broad and complete overview. There should also be no lack of self-criticism. Any client should be named.
  • News : The work leads to an advance in knowledge

A classic ideal - which goes back to Aristotle - is the complete neutrality of research. It should be autonomous, pure, free of preconditions and judgment (" tabula rasa "). In practice, this is not entirely possible and can sometimes be criticized. Even the selection of the research subject can be subject to subjective assessments that call the neutrality of the results into question. An example of this is the fact that male primate researchers primarily studied baboons in the 1950s and 1960s, which are known for their dominant males. Female primatologists in the 1970s, however, preferred to study species with dominant females (e.g. langurs). It is obvious that the intentions of the researchers were aimed at correlations with the gender roles of people.

Karl Popper viewed the value of freedom of values as a paradox and took the position that research should be positively guided by interests, purposes and thus a meaning (search for truth, solving problems, reducing evils and suffering). Science should therefore always take a critical stance towards its own results as well as those of others; wrong assumptions are always open to criticism. He also doubted that science was founded and secured, which critics like David Stove already regard as a variety of irrationalism. Critical theories such as social constructivism and post-structuralism and various varieties of relativism completely deny that science can achieve something like value-free and objective knowledge regardless of the influences and limitations of human culture.

Richard Feynman criticized above all the research practice of what he called cargo cult science , which he said has become pointless , in which research results are accepted and assumed uncritically, so that, on the surface, methodologically correct research takes place, but the scientific integrity has been lost .

With weapons of mass destruction, genetic engineering and stem cell research, questions about the ethical limits of science (see ethics of science ) have increasingly arisen in the course of the 20th century .

Political influence

Science is related to politics in a mutual complementarity and dependency. The political circumstances set the respective framework conditions for scientific research and the societal use of research findings. In the 21st century, this relationship is increasingly coming into the focus of public interest and media communication in connection with new challenges such as the digital revolution and global warming .

The historian Jürgen Kocka observes an increase in the public influence of science on politics due to the increased commitment of scientists, for example in the fight against global warming or in dealing with digitization. He understands this as “part of a profound democratization” in the last few decades and the rise of civil society , to which science partly belongs, but warns against neglecting scientific principles. In the current political disputes, it is important to specifically disclose “one's own selectivity” and to recognize competing approaches. In times when it is becoming more difficult to reach a compromise and the ability to communicate is waning, scientists have to help “create distance from the hot political activity, to differentiate, to help gray tones between black and white to be right, to weigh up with a sense of proportion and a sense of proportion. and publicly. "

Sociologist Jutta Allmendinger reflects on the political role of science against the background that for a long time the humanities and social sciences have been accused of too much socio-political distance, and notes: “The social sciences cannot be apolitical - and that applies to many other disciplines also. All important research questions of our time are highly political, because they concern central areas of people's lives that are politically shaped. ”Researchers who are in possession of important results should not put them in a drawer, but should help shape the solution of social problems with them. With regard to climate change, on which there is a 99 percent consensus among experts that it is man-made, Allmendinger complains about political failure in the implementation of CO 2 emission avoidance and concludes: "It is neither reprehensible nor does it damage scientific integrity if Scientists come together here and, together with the younger generation, increase the pressure on politics. "

The physicist Christian Thomsen points to a process of rapprochement and interaction between science and society in Citizen Science . "The science system has not only opened up and explained itself, but also raises its voice at demonstrations, invites representatives from civil society to work on research questions together, or publicly and controversially discussed with politicians." Thomsen sees the problem of a loss of credibility among scientists , which follow a rough simplification of scientific facts in terms of content. From this, however, “a fine academic reluctance to deal with politically decisive issues such as climate change or Brexit” cannot be inferred. On the contrary, it is important to take a stand to counteract the “ignoring science by politics” - despite the “risks to academic well-being”. In view of the increasing importance of new media and social networks as sources of information, especially among young people, Thomsen also advocates “Twitter and Co.” as media for successful science communication .

Classification of the sciences

Classification of science by Aristotle
in the 4th century BC Chr. (After Ottfried Höffe)
Rhetoric (also
under poietic)
Rhetoric (also
under practical)
Nature research
pure arithmetic
u. geometry
astronomy ,
harmony , etc.
Thought principles
( logic )
1.  zoology ,
2.  botany

Aristotle already divided science into sub-areas, so-called individual sciences . He considered geometry and arithmetic unsuitable to deal scientifically with living beings. The classic modern division follows different aspects. The aim is purely theoretical (methodology, basic research) or practically applied science or the knowledge base is based on (empirical) empirical or (rational) rational sciences. The division of science is particularly important for organizational purposes ( faculties , departments) and for the systematic ordering of publications (e.g. Dewey Decimal Classification , Universal Decimal Classification ).

There are increasing efforts to establish interdisciplinary areas and thus to profitably link the findings of individual sciences.


The distinction between natural , human and social sciences is widespread. The natural and social sciences are often referred to as empirical sciences ( English science ) and opposed to the humanities ( English humanities ) in terms of subject matter and method. With the increasing scientification and differentiation, more and more new branches of science were added, which make classification more difficult. The various purpose-related classifications are no longer uniform. With an increasing trend towards further specialization, the current situation has become very dynamic and hardly manageable. Historically, individual areas have emerged from philosophy. In particular, were natural philosophy and science long time in the natural history closely linked.

Standardized classifications

There are attempts to classify the various sciences out of the need to collect statistical data on research institutions and research results and to make them internationally comparable. One of the classifications of the branches of science that is binding for statisticians is the Fields of Science and Technology (FOS) established by the OECD in 2002 .

See also

Portal: Science  - Overview of Wikipedia content on science


Web links

Commons : Sciences  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: Science  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Science  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
 Wikinews: Science  - In The News

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th ed., Ed. by Walther Mitzka , De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 864 f.
  2. Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, 19th edition, Mannheim, 1994.
  3. Article "Science". In: Georg Klaus, Manfred Buhr (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary. 11th edition, Leipzig 1975.
  4. Martin Carrier, Lexikon der Philosophie, Reclam, Stuttgart, 2011 p. 312.
  5. Julius Pokorny: Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Bern / Vienna 1859; Revised version from 2007, p. 1125.
  6. Meineke, Birgit: Old High German scaf (t) formations. Studies on Old High German. Vol. 17. Göttingen 1991, pp. 118ff.
  7. Gundolf Keil : Medical Education and Alternative Medicine. In: Winfried Böhm , Martin Lindauer (ed.): “Not much knowledge saturates the soul”. Knowledge, recognition, education, training today. (= Third Symposium of the University of Würzburg. ) Ernst Klett, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-12-984580-1 , pp. 245-271; here: p. 246.
  8. ^ Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences: Scientific Integrity - Principles and Rules of Procedure
  9. Karoline Rotzoll: Guide to scientific work
  10. ^ Dieter Haller (text), Bernd Rodekohr (illustrations): Dtv-Atlas Ethnologie . 2nd Edition. dtv, Munich 2010, p. 135.
  11. What is science? Federal Association for Education, Science and Research e. V., accessed on January 12, 2019 .
  12. D. Miller: Out of Error , Chapter 2, Sections 2 + 4
  13. D. Stove: Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists . Macleay Press, Sydney, 1998. Reprint as: D. Stove: Scientific Irrationalism: Origins of a Postmodern Cult , pp. 94 and 95
  14. ^ Ernst Gellner, Helmut Seiffert: Relativism (1), Paul Feyerabend, Helmut Seiffert: Relativism (2). In: Helmut Seiffert, Gerard Radnitzky: Handlexikon der Wissenschaftstheorie. Ehrenwirth Verlag, Munich 1989, reprint dtv Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag 1992. ISBN 3-431-02616-8 . on pages 287-296.
  15. "As a producer of scientific insights one knows and emphasizes how limited their expressiveness is often, how controversial and relative, namely depending on the chosen terms and research methods."
  16. Jürgen Kocka : Researchers do not become propagandists! Scientists should get involved in politics, but not violate their rules. Petitions and protests lead to gross simplifications. A plea. In: Der Tagesspiegel , October 2, 2019; accessed on October 16, 2016.
  17. Jutta Allmendinger and Harald Wilkoszewski: Say something! Science cannot be apolitical today A call for socially engaged research. In: Der Tagesspiegel , October 2, 2019, p. 25. Online version ; accessed on October 16, 2016.
  18. Christian Thomsen : Why science has to be loud. Unis for Future: Where science interferes professionally and objectively, politics cannot escape. In: Der Tagesspiegel , October 11, 2019, p. 22. Online version under a different title ; accessed on October 16, 2016.