Covered up Mistakes – Morgan Gainer-Kendrick

In chapter 2 of Rigor Mortis I became very aware on how little mistakes can produce a largely different outcome. Many scientist follow safe and healthy procedures but can turn a blind eye to small mistakes. Still their research is published and they receive awards. However when another scientist wants to reproduce their experiment or publish a paper that goes against all theories they have stated, things can get intense.

“Not only are the effects variable but the instruments for measuring them can be blunt” (Ch.2, pg. 43) Richard Harris talks about how muscular dystrophy is normally measured with a tool called the six minute walk test. This “tool” is used to “gauge how the disease is progressing and to test whether a potential drug is effective”(Pg.43) However this test is unreliable and not accurate at all. The scientist take nine boys to walk around two pylons and see how far they walk. Though the distance can vary quite a lot. It can be changed so much as the patient’s height and weight or given a cash incentive. Now you see how many scientist follow the footsteps of others knowing that it can be done. Whether it’s reliable or not is a false hope.

I was surprised on how easily research can fail with just a simple opinion. “One classic example is that, for many years, researchers favored using male mice because they found it more challenging to deal with the estrous cycles of females.” (pg 41) The scientist soon realized that the had been weakening the foundation of their research by only studying males. The scientist didn’t bother with their weak foundation until they were questioned about it. But one scientist named Carol Grieder was smart and decided to try proving her own research wrong and when she couldn’t she published it. “because I would rather show that I’m wrong that have someone else show me that I’m wrong” (pg34). Many scientist fear embarrassment so they cover their mistakes. Grieder was smart because in the end she receives more credit. Later in the chapter Grieder decided to test a lab done on TERT. The original scientist had concluded that more TERT created more hair growth on mice. Grieder concluded that “TERT doesn’t play an essential role in gene regulation, as the STanford scientists proposed. It is only essential as a part of telomerase”(pg36)

In the end what I have learned from this chapter is when researching always use correct and healthy techniques, explore all variables, and prove yourself wrong.

 

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