Thursday, 5 November 2020

Approaching Complicated Research in Microbiology


 

We all remember those kids, right? The ones who were probably more than a little studious in high school. They were busy acing exams and applying to top-tier colleges while everyone else was attending pep rallies and prom. We all knew they were going to go far and never look back. 

 

A guest post by Indiana Lee.

 

There is a pretty good chance that a handful of those people took a deep dive into the gloriously complex realms of science. Now not only were they the ones who studied harder, but they speak in what feels like another language. For the majority of Americans today, understanding the scientific jargon and the impacts of research can be a real struggle. Many of us wouldn’t even know if that nerdy kid in school was producing research that could save our lives.

 

This presents a real difficulty for those scientific fields trying to convey the importance of their research. Complex jargon is not only a challenge for most people to follow, but it can actually kill interest in a scientific topic. Because of this, how research is portrayed to the public and helping people to understand the nuances of research is a skill in and of itself. 

Validating Research

The first thing that many people that aren’t steeped in science for work every day forget to realize is that the job description of “scientist” is massive and encompasses hundreds of thousands of different jobs and specialties. For instance, the field of microbiology has all sorts of specialties associated. Each specialty is producing research that connects to a different specialty in different but complementary ways, which is part of the validation process.

 

There is a lot that goes into research that becomes an academic paper and is further built upon. First and foremost in that line of steps is validation. Scientific research that hasn’t been put through rigorous testing and replicated numerous times is nothing more than someone’s opinion on social media of how a complicated process works. When the scientific community coalesces around an idea, you can be sure that a great deal of evidence from multiple specialties is involved.

 

This is part of the reason that the scientific community has bristled at the attempts being made to politicize COVID-19 vaccinations. The biological research surrounding viruses and defeating them is complex and when it comes to health the public should be able to confidently rely upon scientists to only recommend things that are likely to work without any negative side effects.

Communicating Risks

Regardless of what advice it is, though, there will always be some risks. This is another important aspect of communicating scientific information. When communicating with the public, scientists strive to disclose any and all potential risks associated with their research. It is a critical component of maintaining public trust in the system.

 

Assessing risks is also a factor in planning research. For instance, though regulations haven’t necessarily been approved, numerous companies have popped up offering variations of stem cell therapy. In these situations, patients must be informed that their treatments should be considered experimental and the results could be unplanned and surprising.

 

Additionally, microbiologists and other scientists have to be realistic about the risks they are taking on by studying certain topics altogether. For instance, pathogen research has numerous high risks, especially to the professionals that are exposed to them (presumably in protective gear) while studying them. Though there is a great deal of risk, most consider it worth it because this is the research that propels the development of vaccines and other medical cures to the most dangerous concerns.

Battling Misinformation

Even after all of the validation and risk communication that goes into presenting scientific research to the public, there will still be a battle against misinformation. This goes both ways. For instance, those who don’t stand to benefit from the science (especially those who might lose something like an investment) will seek to invalidate results. While those you stand to gain something from the research may exaggerate the facts for their gain.

 

Though this can be painstakingly true in nearly any scientific issue, the medical realm is particularly challenging. Many patients and even some healthcare providers get influenced one direction or another regarding the health benefits of certain medications. This influence and potential misinformation can be especially complicated when it comes to the desire to look into more natural remedies for health issues.

 

It can be extremely tough to knock out stigmas regarding certain scientific ideas regardless of the evidence. For instance, it took years for regulators to take a serious strike at implementing policies related to the dangers of cigarettes. Misinformation distributed by industries that stood to lose a lot by acknowledging the health risks was powerful and backed by money that made it difficult to deal with.

 

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Approaching the distribution of complicated research in science to the public is a challenging task. Though most people believe in science, it can be exceptionally difficult to understand in a meaningful way. To combat this, scientists work to build a reputation of trust by validating their results, communicating risks, and battling misinformation.

 

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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