TED Conversations

Michael Moore

Disruptive Physician, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences


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When confronted with new ideas like the ones presented by Mina Bissell, how do we change our views in today's scientific establishment?

Today's scientific research is different than research of 100. 50, or even 20 years ago. The advances are generally more incremental, less understandable to non-scientists, and require an expensive research infrastructure. In addition, because of limited resources we often do not have the time or money to reconfirm results, resulting in less validated information being incorporated into our knowledge base. To me this is a similar situation that resulted in the scientific profession, the science journal, and the concept of peer review. Now, because of the explosion of science knowledge, and the idea that scientific knowledge can be proprietary, these structures/ideas are failing us...and revolutionary ideas like Mina Bissell's can pass us by because they are unrecognized.

Are we entering a new era where we need new models of how we validate knowledge? Do we just retain our trend to open information and hope the knowledge rises to the surface, or is there still a role for curation and peer review?

What are the kinds of skills that the "New Scientist" will need? Maybe just as important, what are the skills they will not need?


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  • Jul 17 2012: I am not a scientist or a research expert. But I wonder about the limitations of academia in general. In graduate school I noticed that the expectation within research was to cite a lot of recent work(as Joris noted). There is, in some cases, a potential to emerge something new through gradual collaborative building. On the other hand, there often isn’t really much room for originality. It is "against the rules" to introduce an idea that does not reference what has already been suggested. The effect is a kind of inbreeding that values the authority of the institutional base rather than authentic inquiry or creativity. I suspect that this isn’t true of all institutions or departments, but probably too many. Like other areas of our society, the pressures to conform to top-down authority constrain innovation. It is not explicit policy and probably happens most often at an interpersonal level—Instructor/student, institutional authority/department head, peers/renegade innovator. I suspect that the cumulative effect of old inbreed authority on restraining problem-solving could be as significant in scientific research as it is in energy production/distribution or political process. The intersection of authority and authenticity is problematic in many human systems. How can we address that? How can we make authority/ authenticity a lateral instead of a hierarchical relationship?

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