Edexcel A Level Physics

Revision Notes

1.7 The Scientific Community

Test Yourself

Validating Experimental Results

  • The scientific community works together to ensure that the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts are kept as up to date as possible
    • This comes from continuous experimenting based on evolving knowledge and new developments in technology
  • For example, one of the early models of the atom was the 'plum pudding model' by JJ Thompson
    • Emerging evidence later found by Ernest Rutherford established that most of the atom was actually empty space
    • This lead to an evolved understanding of what the atom looks like, which is still being investigated to this day
  • Scientists ask questions, suggest answers (hypothesise) then test these suggestions
    • This is known as the scientific process

The Scientific Process

  1. Ask a question about why something happens or how it works e.g. why does light diffract?
  2. Suggest an answer by forming a theory (a possible explanation of the observation) e.g. light is a wave
    • This could also be in the form of a model or a simplified picture of what is physically going on e.g. the spreading out of waves
  3. Make a prediction or hypothesis
    • This is a testable statement, based on the theory, about what will happen if it is tested
    • For example, if light is a wave, it is expected to reflect and refract
  4. Carry out an experiment to test the hypothesis
    • This will provide clear evidence to support the initial prediction
    • For example, investigating the reflection and refraction of light - if the experiment doesn't match the theory, the theory must change

Validating Scientific Knowledge

  • A theory is only scientific if it can be tested
  • Any pieces of experiment evidence must be published
    • This is often in scientific journals and reports (papers)


  • The papers are peer-reviewed by the scientific community in the same field
    • Other scientists examine the data and results, ensuring that there has been a fair test and the conclusion from the results is reasonable 
    • This also ensures that work published in journals is of a good standard
  • This process helps validate scientific knowledge and ensure integrity (trustworthiness)
    • Scientists can be dishonest or biased, leading to invalid conclusions from their experiments
    • For example, manipulating the data to fit with their hypothesis
  • Peer-review isn't perfect, and often independent scientists test the theory themselves to cross-check the results and make sure the original results weren't just a 'fluke'
  • If the evidence then supports a theory, the theory is accepted (for now)
    • If many experiments back this theory with good evidence, and it is not yet deemed incorrect, then the theory is considered a scientific 'fact'
  • However, scientific theories are never indisputable
    • There can be breakthroughs and advances to provide new ways to test the theory which could lead to new evidence and conflicts
    • When this happens, the testing happens all over again, the theory is adapted to the new evidence found
    • The best theories are those that scientists are continuously trying to poke holes in and test thoroughly. If the theories survive many different tests, then it is more trusted
  • The nature of scientific knowledge is therefore continuously changing and evolving

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Katie M

Author: Katie M

Katie has always been passionate about the sciences, and completed a degree in Astrophysics at Sheffield University. She decided that she wanted to inspire other young people, so moved to Bristol to complete a PGCE in Secondary Science. She particularly loves creating fun and absorbing materials to help students achieve their exam potential.