I had to explain what science is in about 200 words for the “Science: Nature, Knowledge and Understanding” unit at James Cook Uni. This is exactly 200 words.
Science is a systematic approach to understanding existence in terms of provable observations. Because existence has such a vast scope, its study has split over time into a wide array of specialized fields. However, all branches of science share a common approach to developing an understanding of their area of interest.
Scientific practice is based on studying some aspect of existence, formulating a theory to explain a particular phenomenon, and then developing an experiment that proves the theory is correct (or incorrect) and which is reproducible by anyone else. Some research, such as experiments carried out by the Large Hadron Collider, cannot be reproduced by anyone without the necessary resources, but the data collected in those experiments can be made available for independent analysis.
As well as reproducibility, peer review is a fundamental element of scientific research. Publication of research papers in peer reviewed journals is the primary means of validating new research. The peer review process means only research that’s considered to be valid by other experts in that field will get published. Publication ensures the research is available to other scientists who can then try and prove or disprove the published hypotheses, and validate or invalidate experimental results.