Monday, April 21, 2008

publicising research results

april 21 2008

I've been surfing around a bit and I've found quite a lot of blogs which have no real original content.
Some are just copies of the news in a different layout or summaries of scientific articles they have found somewhere.
Or second hand schientific results.

Just getting statistics doesn't say much.
Especially not when they're taken from the news.
There are so many fairytales around, which aren't backed up with proper research or are based on bad research.

It takes some basic knowledge to judge a scientific article, and it takes the whole article.

It's not enough to see the results.

One should be able to see why a certain research method has been choosen, and if it fits the subject, the hypothesis and the researched group(s).

One should be able to judge the statistical method. Some methods are choosen to draw conclusions from the data which shouldn't be used at all!

And one should be able to criticise the way the researchers have reached their conclusion.
Sometimes the data available grant more conclusions than one.
It's important to see them.

I know that many scientists need to publicise on a regular basis, otherwise their researchgroup looses grants and/or is not accepted in the researchinstitute anymore.
Many scientists need to publicise a certain amount of articles a year, to keep their job and/or be promoted.

The pressure to write articles and seek the media is sometimes too much.
A bit of inside information about that sometimes prevents misunderstandings and false joy.

For instance:
In the past the scientific community ignored certain cancerresearch.
We knew where it came from, so we didn't spread any false hope, and quietly tried to make the scientists aware of our doubt about the conclusions.

Then the media got hold of the results and spread false hope among people.
It took ages before it all died down, and so many patients were hurt, because there was no cure.

Another important hype was created about vaccinations and autism.
The article was withdrawn and excuses were made to the scientific community.
But even today many parents think they have given their children autism because they had them vaccinated.
They are not open anymore to scientific results that show there is no correlation.
To the contrary, they jump on everyone who says there is a connection and use it to show they are right.

Selective perception, see what you have in your frame of mind, is even more dangerous than pure phantasy.

More and more scientists are aware of the people who need the results of their reserach.
It leads to more ethical behaviour.
But even when clear statements are made that certain results are just the first step in a long chain of researchprojects, people just take one part out of what they hear: the part they think they can use.

Being aware that writing about research results might cause reactions on the side of the readers which can't be controlled is not often a characteristic of the media.

I hope more bloggers however take a close look to why they re-publisice what they find in the media.


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