Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Science: With a grain of salt

At almost every decision-making point, humans are innately biased beings. Our unique capacity for pattern recognition has allowed us to make great scientific strides, but undoubtedly has resulted in bias and false positives when interpreting scientific data; and the “publish or perish” culture in academia promotes novel findings and positive results over reliability of findings. These are things that most scientists are aware of, but very few take adequate measures to minimize the effects of bias; including myself. Many of the articles reveal the daunting commonality of the false positive, but Horvath presents it as a reality of science; a statement which resonated with me. It is our responsibility as scientists to conduct investigation and report findings as ethically as possible. But with that said, we are humans and therefore fallible. It would be impossible to expect that every reported finding would be true. To obtain such a goal, there would need to be a shift in the current expectations of the publication “race”. A slower pace of review and publication would promote greater validation of studies and an in-depth peer review process. But, a slower pace of publication could prevent a rapid rate of discovery. I am in the “self-correcting “science camp. I think that false theories can be filtered out if validation studies fail to replicate the results. I know if I’ve tried a technique and failed to replicate the result after a few attempts, I move on to a different methodology. The emerging trend toward post-publication review will be a great tool for this weed-out process and will ultimately lead to better science. I believe that we as scientists know to take scientific findings with a grain of salt. However, the size of that grain can vary based on whether it corroborates or contradicts our own theories, something that should give all of us pause for reflection.

No comments:

Post a Comment