I try to learn something new for this blog every now and then. First it was about the fashion history of the Fedora and then the mechanics of ice fishing. As I am going back to school for college prep and the course I’m interested is biotechnology, I figured a science blog would be good.
When I was at the college library they had some books they were giving away for free. The one that caught my eye was called “Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science. ” I have only started reading this book by William Broad & Nicholas Wade , but all ready I have learned several new things about the field I am going in. For instance biology is in the middle of the science spectrum with Physics on the hard science side and Sociology on the the soft sciences side. I was happy that I was looking at something in the middle. Yet what really caught my attention was something that I had heard on The Big Bang Theory and hadn’t paid much attention to before. The guys getting their works published in journals.
To me, watching the show I just thought, “oh that’s great a popular magazine amongst scientists is writing an article about them. That’s just nifty. ” I had no knowledge that I needed to understand how huge this actually was for the characters until I read this book and learnt what it takes to prove your theories and be recognized as a leader in your field. If I’m boring you I’m sorry, but I’m going to break it down even further.
As it turns out scientists from all categories have a very specific way to have their work verified before it’s released to the public. So first a hypothesis is created, meaning the reason an experiment is being done and what they think the outcome may be. After doing the experiment and other experiments several times and getting the same data, one can usually state the facts are a law. Now a law basically sums up the facts, but to make your work stand out it’s good to have a theory.
So a theory is a statement of the law and all the reasons and facts that make this law so. Because it is a theory some guess work is allowed. For example Darwin’s Theory of Evolution because there are still missing links it is only a theory that we keep gathering more and more data in favor of, however we may still find that parts of the theory are wrong as the data comes in. However, because there is so much data proving the theory scientists will agree it is true because it is a logical assumption. Yet laws can change with research and theories destroyed as more information comes in. So they are true unless proven otherwise.
To make sure these laws and theories are true and not just people making things up to better their careers, they have a verification process involving their scientific peers. To get funding for their research they need to have their work published in a scientific journal. To do that the editor of the journal sends it to scientific referees to confirm if the work is new or not. As we don’t want someone conducting scientific plagiarism. So now two groups in the science world have okayed it to go further so what happens next?
Well next the work needs to be replicated. So other scientists using the equipment and procedure laid out in your article in the journal. So your experiments are redone over and over. Hopefully they get the same results you do and you can have your work move on to the next stage.
So now your work has been proven and it goes to the peer review board to decide if it important enough for funding. If so then you get more funding to continue your research and write more papers. Now I know I’m not doing proper citation, but I do want to give credit to the book as it describes perfectly how scientists rate their careers based on this system. So on page 19 of The Betrayers of Truth by William Broad & Nicholas Wade they say,
“To be successful, a researcher must get as many articles published as possible, secure government grants, build up a laboratory and the resources to hire graduate students, increase the production of published papers, strive to be awarded a tenured post at a university, write articles that may come to the notice of committees that award scientific prizes, gain election to the National Acedemy of Sciences and hope one day to an invitation to Stockholm.”
That last line is about getting the Nobel prize. Just imagine all that work, the hours, and the pressure one must go through to get that prize. Now imagine doing all that and finding out someone got a grant because they fudged their answers. I can understand the desire to do so if the field is that competitive, but myself personally I would rather keep my integrity intact then get a Nobel Prize. So if I never get one through the biology field but I do a lot of hard work and important research I’ll be happy. I laugh because I can almost imagine Sheldon Cooper shaking his head at me for saying the Nobel Prize isn’t worth it.
Well I hope you found some of this educational blog entertaining. I tried to make it as easy to understand as possible. There may be more scientific stuff to come as I do my courses and read non fiction books. From my chemistry class I just learnt that the numbers on the periodic table have meaning…I can’t believe I passed high school chemistry with out knowing that. So I am learning lots and loving it. Hopefully it will lead to a career.
~ The Incidental Scribe