Why scientists seem to change their minds (8)

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 they have

Kirsty Newman
Dr Kirsty Newman founded the Evidence-Informed Policy Making programme at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) in 2009. From August 2012, she will be working for the UK Department for International Development in the Research Uptake team. Follow Kirsty on twitter: @kirstyevidence

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