….the importance of ‘grassroots scientists’ to national development.

Song Zhenghai, a policy researcher at the Institute of Natural Science History and lead author of the letter, describes grassroots scientists as those who have had no scientific training, who are not formally attached to any science agency, or who are not employed as researchers.
Grassroots scientists are more in tune than professional researchers with the needs of the average Chinese so their work could help China to develop sustainably,
“These institutes seldom agree to formally assess the scientific results of the grassroots scientists, let alone fund them,” said Song in an interview with SciDev.Net.

A fair science evaluation system should be created for grassroots scientists, and formal academic societies should be more inclusive towards such scientists, says the letter. It adds that funding agencies should consider whether their work could help solve scientific and practical problems, not whether an applicant is affiliated to an institution.

“Although the grassroots scientists might not have been trained academically, their knowledge and thinking can lead them to make truly original science innovations,” said Wang Shouchun, a scientist at the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, and one of the letter’s authors.

I’m not sure how one can do science without some sort of training, which is like saying how can anyone learn without learning. That is, there may not be formal or establishment apprenticeship but careful observation, comparison, questioning are learned skills. Unaffiliated scientists should be supported.

As I noted some years ago, Biocultural Dimensions of Environment and Health,

Existing health and environment studies that construe science narrowly and have biomedical or regulatory bias are not capable of evaluating the totality of environmental challenges that confront the Pueblo people.

We need a new way of monitoring environmental change and health effects that realistically encompasses human modes of adaptation– biology and culture. We need to develop a system of health evaluation based on population, time, and alternative data sets (e.g., nonhuman biotic markers, oral histories). As scientists, we need to recognize that if equal involvement of the other experts, the community itself, is absent in all project phases, community health studies will, at best, be scientifically inadequate.

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