Hello there bloggies!
We scientists are an excitable bunch folks, especially when it comes to new technologies, techniques, and methods. Although we try to be completely objective and data-driven, scientists and science as a whole can find it hard not to follow the latest and greatest trends in their field. Almost instantly, you can’t help but find these new technologies and buzzwords in so many papers, grant applications, media articles, and talks.
Can you really blame scientists though?
I mean we are humans who work hard to untangle some of the most complex puzzles that nature has created for us. How could we not use the most advanced tools to investigate them? And how could scientists not be way excited about that?
Scientists should be excited by new technologies and possibilities! It’s this excitement that fuels innovation and desire to keep research moving forward.
However, scientists should remember that research and science are not wild goose chases. Research is a data and hypothesis driven process that requires rigorous critique and a constant search for the truth. Experiments should not just be proposed performed for the sake of using a new fancy toy or using the “in” buzzword. There should be a hypothesis to be tested or the generation of data to develop hypotheses. Don’t just sequence things or use CRISPR because all the cool kids are. Figure out how these techniques can address the scientific questions being asked and then use them.
In addition, whatever new fancy toy or technique is now in fad is NOT going to answer all of the scientific questions scientists have. I’m sorry scientists out there! CRISPR, although it’s going to be really powerful in how we can edit and interrogate genomes, is not the answer for everything. There are pros and cons to every technique. We are going to learn a lot, but the technological and innovative push will need to continue.
And we should know this from history. Just look at the Human Genome Project (where a reference sequence of the human genome was generated) and the advent of genome-wide association studies (GWAS…check out this past post on GWAS for a refresher). Everyone and their mom thought knowing the human genome sequence and finding a way to look at associations across the whole genome would tell us all we needed to know about human disease and traits. Nature isn’t that simple. While we have learned so much, we continue to understand how our genetics influence human disease and how to best tailor treatment based on genetic profiles.
So be excited about new technology and findings! But keep things in perspective. One technology will not give all the answers we’re searching for in science. Be aware of that and make sure that is communicated both to other scientists and to the public. One study, one technology, and one way of thinking will never uncover everything. Science is moved forward as a community with a diversity of approaches. So keep pushing forward!
Thanks for stopping by the blog! Have any thoughts about scientists getting excited and possibly over-promising on new technologies? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.
See you later!