Science Officer Simming Guide
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|COMMAND DIVISION||OPERATIONS DIVISION||SCIENCES DIVISION||MARINE CORPS||CIVILIAN CONTINGENT|
Science officers serve in the Science Department on starships or starbases in Starfleet. The head of the department is sometimes known as the Chief Science Officer and may operate the science station on the bridge or operations center. As the name implies, science officers are responsible for observations, research, and experiments in any of the sciences, including mathematics, statistics, physics (physical and temporal), chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, cosmology, and others. Science personnel provide information on, and also record the effects of mission-related data on anomalies, alien races, etc. Their main responsibility is assisting the crew in understanding the phenomenon and species they come in contact with, so as to make better informed decisions on how to deal with them. In crisis situations, the science officer can be critical in ensuring that the crew reacts appropriately to natural and man-made threats.
The ship's science officers have a very important role in creating an appropriately "Trek-like" atmosphere to a sim.
Specialization and the Science Officer
Unlike many other duty posts, the science position is unique in that an officer is expected to have some kind of specialization in a specific discipline of the field of science. (The Chief officer is expected to be more of a jack-of-all-trades, but we'll talk more about that later. For right now, we're talking specifically about non-chief science officers.)
There are a broad range of disciplines that officers can specialize in, which are listed on our wiki. Generally, officers who go through the Academy would then be placed on vessels where they will best serve based on their specialization. For example: a science vessel that does a lot of "follow up" to first contact missions would probably have a linguist, general xenologist, sociologist, and perhaps botanists and zoologists to study the flora and fauna of the new world. A deep space vessel might have astronomists, xenologists, and a linguist to deal with the various challenges of uncharted territory. As you can see, the specializations are not necessarily just in what we contemporarily consider the "hard sciences" of physics, chemistry, and biology. Anthropology, history, and even sociology are considered science specializations under StarFleet's standards.
Keep in mind that a science officer onboard a vessel wishes to expand their knowledge and participate in exploration via service to StarFleet. However, there are also scientists in the Star Trek omniverse who do not serve StarFleet, and may be a part of pharmaceutical corporations, universities, or other explatory organizations. Not every ship would necessarily need to assign a specific science officer to them permanently for a specific mission. In a non-normal situation, where a specific discipline of scientific knowledge is needed, StarFleet could enlist the assistance of a scientist who is not associated with them. These officers could "take the job" in an effort to further their research or simply to experience space exploration for a short period of time. In this situation, the scientist would take residence aboard the ship for whatever length of time is necessary to assist in the mission, or carry out their research, and then return to their "old life" after that.
For those officers who choose to serve StarFleet, life would not simply consist of going on away missions and doing reports. Indeed, the science officers aboard a starship or starbase would also be participating in their own endeavours. This could include research which they conduct between missions or en route to a mission. Almost all scientists routinely publish papers on their work, which would still hold true in the future. Despite the fact that we normally only saw StarFleet life onscreen, there is also a huge scientific community outside of StarFleet! So, your character could publish their work in scientific journals and take part in scientific conferences when they have the chance, to help further knowledge of their field.
Above all, keep in mind that scientists have a drive and motivation to expand their understanding of what they do. Your character should be hungry for knowledge, and should seek new ways (either theoretical or experimental) to discover new things and share those discoveries with others.
Before a mission begins, the crew is always notified by a mission briefing about what they intend to do, and what their goals are. Just like other duty posts, the science officer is integral in preparing for a mission, but in ways that we did not often see onscreen.
Before the briefing, your commanding officer may ask your character to speak at the briefing about information that may be useful to the crew. This could be more about the planet they are visiting, or perhaps about the civilizations they might come in contact with.
Whether or not your character speaks at the briefing, they will always be researching ways they can best serve the mission. So as the science officer, despite your specialization, you will need to find ways to make your character, or your NPC characters, important to the forward motion of the plot. If your character specializes in the area that the upcoming mission is dealing with (evolution? linguistics? sociology?), then all the better! Your character would be looking through the LCARS database, scientific journals, or anything else they can get their hands on to inform them more about the specific subject they will be dealing with. If your character does not specialize in that area, then create a science officer NPC who does, and you can SIM them doing the research and then working with your main character to bring the science department on your ship into a better understanding of what they'll be dealing with.
Whether you do it with an NPC or your main character, the point is to remember that your character, as a science officer, will be doing lots of preparation to ensure that they are fully able to assist the commanding officer of your vessel on how they can best deal with the challenges ahead. Your character will want to know everything, and also collect all the information they can into a PADD or tricorder, so that they can acess what they don't know.
Science officers are an intergral part of the story, as they must be on hand to assist the crew with the new situations that occur. However, as players in the science duty post are sometimes scarce, many crews can fall out of the habit of including their science officer in the story. Don't be afraid to insert yourself into the action! It's your responsibility as a player to have your character be useful.
A great source of inspiration to any science officer should be the character of Jadzia Dax. Her innate, non-symbiont personality was one of great curiosity and broad knowledge. She once told Kira Nerys that as the science officer, it was her job "to have a better idea". (Source: Memory-Alpha) She appeared in a great deal of episodes on Deep Space 9, so you will find many appearances on screen that you can use as a model for your own character.
But what about in situations where a science officer doesn't appear to be needed? An encounter with hostile Romulans, for example? Think outside of the box! Create an NPC who specializes in Sociology, and has some knowledge with the Romulans. What could he or she tell your character about how the Romulans react to certain situations?
Find ways for your character to be on the bridge in encounters with species or phenomenon. In doing so, your character will be the one that the others turn to for more information. As a science officer, it's your character who will know the channels of data to access to cross-reference any given situations. If a stellar phenomenon occurs, it's your character who will know what databases in LCARS, and civilian networks, to get to in the hopes of finding a similar situation that could shed light on your current predicament.
Luckily, as was mentioned previously, science officers are present on all away teams to assist the crew in figuring out what they're dealing with. With this comes great opportunities to help drive the plot forward and participate in some of the most exciting moments of the story.
You will need to concentrate, in away mission settings, in having your character help others learn more about their surroundings. A good science officer will have at least superficial information about many subjects, and so can scan the surroundings to give clues about what has happened, or how the crew will react to the flora and fauna nearby.
Your character will also be important in bringing together many pieces of evidence to spring the "aha!" moment. As a science officer, they can draw from their vast knowledge of the physical or social sciences to draw conclusions about how certain things may be effecting the actions occurring. Is your crew having trouble contacting the ship? Perhaps it's these mangeto-ferrite mountains nearby that are skewing our transmission!
Just remember to temper yourself, despite all this knowledge. No one is a "superman," and weaknesses are always more interesting than strengths. How would your character feel if they hadn't seen the cause and effect chain that brought the crew to their current situation? No one can solve all the problems, but your science officer can always act as a good source of information about the scene and players.
A note about "techno-babble"
Because regs require a science officer on every away mission, a science officer is in a very good position to see a lot of "action". But if the danger for a security officer on an away mission is to become a "red shirt", the danger for a science officer is to become just a spouter of technobabble: "The alien artifact is 2.356 km that way. It seems to be composed of an unusual steel-tritanium alloy..."
While a good science officer knows when to use the right sort of technobabble to help make the mission interesting and to liven up their own speech, it's important to keep in mind that technobabble is more of a filler than a productive plot device. By all means, intersperse your speech with colorful vocabulary, but also be sure to make it simple for your fellow players to understand what is going on. You can use non-speech descriptions to give more information about what you're trying to convey in a non-technobabble kind of way.
On the flip side, don't forget to form your character in the appropriate way! If your character is the type who always talks in total technobabble, then by all means -- do so! The other characters will have to find a way to work around this, and you will also have to find ways to have your character react to others. The point to keep in mind is that you need to ensure that the other writers on your crew can adequately integrate what you are adding to the plot.
Directly after a mission has ended, your character will have some duties which they'll want to engage in immediately. Foremost, your character will need to write up the standard reports necessary for their commanding officer, but also report back to StarFleet's science divisions with any new information that may be useful to other crews.
After their normal duties are completed, a science officer's own activities will depend greatly on their personality. Keep in mind, as you go about simming your science officer, that the "duty-driven" science officer who forgoes shore leave or parties to spend time in the lab is an oft-used and sometimes overdone personality. While this certainly can be the personality of some science officers, and can be used in moderation, you'll be much better off creating a diverse character whose interests go beyond just the lab or research journals.
For example, when on shore leave on Risa, perhaps instead of avoiding the sunlight in his cabin, your character who specializes in archeology could take a day-trip to some nearby ruins to do some digging? Or, on an entirely different tact, your character could avoid work entirely and could take a cooking class to learn more about how to use real herbs and spices. Science is your character's job, but is it her whole life?
However, it's also important to refer back to what was discussed earlier in this article. Science officers would undoubtedly be conducting their own research on a regular basis, and also writing papers and articles for journals and StarFleet. If things have been very busy for your crew, you might find that your character is longing to use their down-time to work on the research that has been so important to them for so long, but that they haven't been able to look at for weeks.
In summation, it's important to remember that your science officer is just like any normal person: they have activities which they enjoy outside of their "work," but are also driven by their quest for knowledge and pursuit of scientific discoveries. Find interesting ways to balance work and play for your character, but also drive their personality in the direction you want. If you're looking for a pasty-pale, wild-haired scientist, then you probably won't spend much time on pursuits outside of the lab. If you're looking for the wild science-partier, then perhaps they need to take up the science of brewing as their leisure activity!
The Chief Science Officer
While "regular" science officers are expected to have good, general scientific knowledge with a great deal of knowledge in their chosen discipline of specialization, the Chief Science Officer (CSO), and the Assistant Chief Science Officer (ACSO) are expected to have a great deal of general scientific knowledge, and rely on their staff for expertise in specific areas.
As you can imagine, it is often the CSO or ASCO who can be found on the bridge assisting the crew with any situations which may arise. Other science crew can usually be found in their respective science labs, providing support to the CSO as they can.
Because the CSO and ASCO are the leaders of the department, it is their duty to ensure that the responsibilities accorded to the science staff are completed. When research needs to be done on a specific phenomenon, the CSO will delegate the job to the person best suited to completed it. Similarly, they will follow up to ensure that the job is being completed, and report the findings to the captain.
The CSO or ASCO will probably also spend some time liasing with the medical and counseling departments to assist when necessary in whatever ways they can.
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