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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    Aug 10 2012: Just a little point. Be wary of talks dealing with medicine that are not in TED MED. Ms. Bissell's talk would never have stood up there. The oncogenetic theory of cancer development has been debunked decades ago with the advent of real genetic research. We know what oncogenes are, how proto-oncogenes can become oncogenes, and we understand how they work with tumor suppressor genes. Nothing she presents is revolutionary or new. It's all been around for years. I discuss that theory when I talk about the history of cancer research circa 1970s.

    That being said, it is not just research that is struggling with the pace and growth of technology. Like all publishing, it is moving online and becoming difficult for the lay person to distinguish between true research and garbage. It is even becoming difficult for people in the field to know if the data is valid. However, even with peer review, it was difficult to externally validate research. Even then a lot of crap got published. It is just a larger volume now.

    So I think we need to continue to develop our ability to critique research, whether in journals or online. We need to know research methodology and appropriate statistical application and view research through a critical lens.

    Each discipline will continue to debate and challenge results. Defending your research starts in school and continues throughout a scientific career. It helps to develop scientific rigor. I truly think this will continue, just not through the format of journals.

    The skills will be the same. Appropriate method for the question, appropriate statistical application to the research, publish and defend your results. And make sure your research decisions are transparent and open to critique.

    It is just that the venue will be different.

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