Practical inspiration (1 of 2)

September 27, 2012

Your article "The richly creative will repay support, says CIHE head" (News, 20 September) rightly stresses the need for interdisciplinary research and links between the arts and engineering. I spent my career in operational research in management, which uses scientific methods to solve management problems and was born of an interdisciplinary approach and "joined-up thinking". But I take exception to the implication that creativity is the preserve of the "creative industries". Rather, it is an essential attribute of all areas of research and application, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Science would never progress without the creativity of the conscious and subconscious mind. It is the sense of wonder, of enquiring, of trying to find breakthroughs, of jumping traditional or disciplinary boundaries that epitomises the best of the creativity of the method.

While some groups can still try to claim creativity as the prerogative of the arts, this merely shows that science education needs to concentrate less on the digestion of facts and more on the mixed, messy, detailed processes by which science progresses. The beauty is that there is no straight line: rather there are many dead ends and the dissonance of firm espousal coupled with deep questioning. In short, science is a great creative process and case studies in current and historical practice can offer a flavour of this. The University of Surrey physicist Jim Al-Khalili's Radio 4 series The Life Scientific offers great insights into the process and its mix of perspiration and inspiration.

Dick Martin, London

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