After reading only one chapter of this book I am thoroughly shocked by the statistics that Richard Harris brought to light. Science has always seemed like one of the few things in the world that we can trust, because the information presented is backed up by the most brilliant and credited minds in the world. But now, it seems, we cannot always trust the people who are giving us the information that will soon affect our lives on a daily basis.
The definition of science as stated by the Miriam Webster Dictionary, is, “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” So when scientists are giving us data they collected without properly using the scientific method, is it really considered true science? Reading this book is the first time that academia has been presented to me with doubt to its credibility. In fact, Richard Harris stated, “Macleod said that when you compound those sources of bias and error, only around 15 percent of published studies may be correct.” (1.15.) The public has been trained to trust in everything that we are given by the scientific community, because there was a time when scientists were sure to follow the procedures that ensured they didn’t make avoidable mistakes. But, unfortunately, that isn’t the case anymore. This makes me wonder how many false statements I’ve believed because of scientists who aren’t sticking to the scientific method out of rush or longing to make a splash in the scientific community. One of the most surprising things I read was a calculation made by Casadevall, a chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who has done a lot of research on scientific malpractice. Richard Harris wrote, “By Casadevall’s reckoning, medical researchers made much more progress between 1950 and 1980 than they did in the following 3 decades.” (1.17. ) As we become more advanced in our technology and more educated in science, it seems that we should be making new discoveries at a far higher rate than what we have been.
In last year’s BioMed class, we learned about one major issue that medicine is coming across right now: antibiotic resistance, due to overuse as well as a lack of new antibiotics. It is very reasonable to believe that the researchers failing to follow the procedures they should, and the other researchers not taking time to check the validity of discoveries before devoting huge amounts of resources, tax dollars, and time, is a cause of biomedicine and its antibiotic development falling behind the progress made by disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 23,000 of the 2 million infected by “superbugs” every year, die. It is frustrating to think about how many of those lives could have been saved if scientists had done their job to the best of their ability. If it was my job to make the discoveries that would save lives and change the world, I would be much more diligent in my process then a lot of the academic researchers are today.