Monday, January 16, 2017

Integrity vs Science Career

“Everyone learns from science; it all depends on how you use the knowledge.”  Quoted by Grissom from the tv show, CSI, this quote is applicable to the controversy of bias and reproducibility in science.  Science is so valuable that there is immense pressure to publish data in top-tier journals and obtain grants during a period when the percentage of grants funded is extremely low.  It’s a cycle that can quickly steamroll out of control.

The pressure to deliver ground-breaking results can lead to publications with “mixed-up images, mislabeling, faulty descriptions, and inexplicable discrepancies” as was determined to occur in July 2014 when two papers published by a Japanese group regarding the STAP phenomenon were retracted from Nature. The responsibility of the false data was so immense that it caused one of the scientists to take his own life.  While this is an extreme example, it demonstrates the repercussions of falsifying data and the importance of integrity in science.  One’s name is always tied to his or her work even after death, thus their integrity can always be viewed through published literature.

While reproducibility may be viewed as the gold standard in science, medicine shows that personalized medicine is the current trend.  In a way, this is applicable to the world of science, as every animal facility and laboratory is different.  Experiments conducted in one environment may not be accurately reproduced in another equivalent environment at a different institution.  Despite the lack of reproducibility at different institutions, I do believe it is very important to have the science reproduced at in house.  Doing a study once is not enough to maintain one’s integrity.  After all, one’s integrity will take a person further in life than a science career.

Not only does the responsibility of accurate scientific communication fall on scientists, but it also is the responsibility of the media to precisely report findings when reporting about new findings.  As pointed out in, “Half of the cancer drugsjournalists called ‘miracles’ and ‘cures’ were approved by the FDA,” “about 55 percent of cases” using superlatives related to cancer treatments were made by journalists.  This leaves about 30% percent of cases where doctors, hospitals and universities used the superlatives.  This shows an important lack of communication between media and the science community but also further shows the falsification of data from scientists.  It provides false hope to those truly suffering with a disease.  Thus, the media and medical communities must work more closely together to avoid such controversies and maintain the integrity of all parties involved.

No comments:

Post a Comment