To do university research we might expect someone to spend three years as an undergraduate, get a first or close, then spend another three years doing a doctorate. This is a very flawed route and by no means guarantees originality or even an individual capable of straight thinking or working on their own or in a team. We tend to stress methodology and most people go through an MA in research methods these days. You learn to publish under intense and sometimes ludicrous peer review. Much that is published in this way represents little more than a vanity press,but it is where the ideas and facts may lie. Most students cannot really access and use this vast resource and sort the wheat from chaff.
The process of knowing is not really knowing more and more, but learning to spot one’s own prejudices,chronic bias in textbooks, media and the world generally. Knowledge of doing is often very esoteric. The infamous cold fusion experiments are a good example. Almost no one could repeat the experiments of Fleischman and Pons, though these palladium anode things do work more or less as they claimed in terms of what can be measured. Some claims of the traces one would expect if there is cold fusion going on are now being made. They were chemists and got the physics wrong to some degree. The traces being looked for are a bit like scratches on a special film made to trap any fusion products. The work goes on and has not been trashed as many think. If you swapped a chemist capable of doing the relevant work here and cop,neither would be able to do each other’s job, though it’s a fair guess more chemists could learn the cop work than vice versa.
I used to hope blogs would get more of the evidence into public review, but not much has moved in some ways from the old days of chat rooms with the flaming, snerts, trolls and so on. One reason science becomes esoteric is that idiot views get in the way, though it is more complex than this. In social matters, anyone should be able to have a say, but if we really want to find creative solutions we have to be able to say what is dross and upset people in a way that we can experience as fair as well as seek mutual understanding. What we too often get is ‘debate’ no better than than teenage twaddle or its ghastly middle-aged bureaucratic form – as per Hutton and Widgery.
If you want to stress ‘first-hand’ experience, you should be able to discuss phenomenology to some degree and also what you do with other people’s first-hand experience. If the relevant population and sample you need to get is special, you should expect to fail when you do a broad poll that evades this – there are methods.