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Explore the Future of the Web

Balancing "Science" with Person-Focused Research

Indi Young

Because of reliance on numeric quantification during the industrial and technology ages, many cultures hold science and numbers in high esteem. It’s “the truth about the way things are.” This implicit, complete trust in science bleeds out of institutions and into society at large. Marketing pitches and sales slogans are full of words like “proven” and “scientific” because those words instill trust. When you hear phrases like “evidence based,” “based on the calculations,” or “we did a scientific study,” they are meant to persuade. The phrases usually do not refer to an actual scientific process.

Strictly speaking, the scientific process is to create a hypothesis about how something works, then run experiments to disprove or support your premise. In contrast, “based on calculations” often means multiplication was conducted on some traffic numbers, without necessarily following standard statistical rules. A “scientific study” frequently refers to a survey served to a couple thousand people, then percentages were calculated from the resulting tallies per answer. There’s no experimentation, no using alternate measurements and comparing them, no looking up comparable studies that other people have done. No one tries to reproduce your results to make sure the conclusion is correct.

So, how do you introduce word-based research into this kind of environment? Organizations need a healthy dose of differnt kinds of research to achieve better clarity and confidence in how they support people.

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