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Tag Archives: Research communication
Since returning from a workshop on science communication for journalists I have been thinking a lot about science journalism both in the UK and abroad and wondering if science journalists need to understand the scientific process in order to write good science stories. A number of people will argue that no, you don’t need to understand science to write a good science story — after all you don’t have to be an economist to write on economics or an investment banker to write on finance. While I tend to sympathise with this position I actually disagree with it and here I will outline why.
Although scientists seem to change their minds… let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water The blogs published over the last two weeks have outlined some of the reasons why scientist may appear to be constantly changing their minds. I hope they have been informative but I just want to conclude with a plea. The scientific method is not perfect and the individuals who implement it and interpret scientific findings are human beings who get things wrong. However, please let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water! The scientific method is a really valuable approach to finding more objective answers to some important questions. There are many questions that we really need objective answers to!
Reason 9: The scientists haven’t changed their minds, but many people believe they have There are a number of high profile issues which many members of the public believe are not resolved by scientists, where in fact there is broad scientific agreement. A classic example is the theory of evolution. Many members of the public believe that there is controversy amongst scientists about evolution; however this is simply not true. Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biological research. I have met hundreds of biological researchers but I have never met one who thought that evolution does not happen. To be honest in all my years working as a researcher I never even heard the matter discussed and it was only later that I discovered, to my surprise, that many people think that it is a matter of scientific controversy. If you are a biologist you see evolution take place in … Continue reading
Reason 8: Their belief was not based on scientific data Just because a scientist believes something does not mean that it is scientifically proven. There are many examples of ‘flat-earth’ beliefs — things which many scientists hold to be true but which have actually never been proven. A good example comes from the medical profession. For decades, doctors working in emergency settings have treated critically ill children by giving a large initial infusion of saline (salt water). This practice was so well established that no one thought to test it. However, recently, to the shock of the medical community, a trial comparing different types of infusion found that the children in the control group, who received no infusion, actually did best. It is therefore vital that we don’t confuse what scientists believe with what has been proven. Next — Reason 9: The scientists haven’t changed their minds, but many people believe … Continue reading
“How do I make my research relevant to policy?” I believe this should be an imperative question for any empirical (perhaps, also theoretical) researcher. Some researchers/scientists won’t probably agree with me, fearing that my statement implies some sort of pollution brought by the cynic political logic into the pure and linear research process. However, as a professional interested in evidence informed policy making (EIPM) and a social scientist, I believe that research and politics can find a common ground in their higher conceptions – respectively intended as a social mission and art of mediation between different interests resulting in the best possible solution for the society.
A couple of weeks ago I heard an anecdote about a woman leaving Lagos airport. An immigration officer chided her about leaving the country and not staying behind to help. He asked her why she chose to live in London instead of Lagos. She tried to think of all the arguments she could make but the only thing that came to her mind was electricity. So she told him that at least in London she had electricity. When she retold this story she was embarrassed she could not come up with a more compelling reason for living abroad than the electricity situation. A week after I heard this story I too was in Lagos for the first time in lets just say a very long time and I recalled the woman’s comments. Due to my personal interest in development and human capital I went to Lagos with fresh eyes and … Continue reading