The second chapter in Richard Harris’s book, “It’s hard even on the good days” focuses mostly on the challenges in biomedical research, such as natural variation. I was surprised to learn that natural variation is a struggle in the biomedical world. Because of it, researchers’ conclusions can only be based off of inferences. “Likewise, a biomedical researcher can rarely witness directly the object of study” so if you can’t completely control everything about the object then you can’t have accurate and specific results.
Another challenge, is the fact that sometimes scientists are bias, whether they realize it or not. Considering the multiple ways to be bias, such as selection bias, recall bias, reporting bias, ascertainment bias, sex bias, cognitive bias, measurement bias, verification bias, publication bias, observer bias, etc. it is almost impossible for scientists to avoid. An example from the book, is that researchers have favored using male mice instead of female for many years, due to the fact that it is “more challenging to deal with the estrous cycles of females”. They eventually realized that only studying males altered some of their results. Most of the time, when scientists discover that they have made a mistake, they will not report it because they would rather report something successful, even if it’s not the right thing to do. Scientists Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn, are not one of these scientists.
In the 1980’s, Greider was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley working with a single-celled organism called tetrahymena, to find out what is responsible for DNA rebuilding at the chromosome tips. When she found her answer in 1984, she didn’t publish her results right away. Instead, she focused on proving that she wasn’t fooling herself. To do this, she searched for another way to rebuild the DNA at the chromosome tips. After a year of proving and perfecting her work, she finally published her paper. This led her and others on the team to earn the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
Overall, scientists and researchers encounter many challenges when researching. Even though these obstacles exist, does not mean that they are a burden or can simply be ignored. I believe that these encounters help more than they hurt. We only know what to fix if we fail, therefore it’s okay to have complications and it’s important to report mistakes so other scientists do not make the same one.