Title

Originally shared by Brent Neal

The Science Behind #ScienceMediaHype , or “This it how it works in the real world.”

The cartoon linked here sums up pretty neatly a lot of things that are hard about being a scientist. If only science were as neat and pretty as what the press release sites and the newspapers described. In the world of newspapers, a line of research always yields fascinating and unequivocal results and the researchers’ cleverness and insight overcomes long odds to reveal amazing truths. Then, we pull the actual papers and the first thing we say to ourselves is, “Hmm. I wish they’d done this too. The paper would have been stronger.” And we recall ourselves the times we’ve published things that weren’t as done as we wanted them to be because it was time to move on, or because the funding was running out, or because it was time for the student to graduate. 

Often, we’ve run out of time because we’ve run the same analysis 39 times and gotten 39 disparate answers, with no rhyme or reason as to why the variation. Maybe we’ll find out later that the undergrad intern reset the optics on the diffractometer, or that the rotavap was contaminated by that guy in the next lab who is a total slob.

All of us live for the “that’s funny” moments. Those moments when we see something unexpected that we suspect might hide something new and exciting. That’s not what usually happens, though. Usually, its a case of “I have no freaking clue why its doing that.” And often that means we’ve failed to control some variable or missed some confounding factor or interference. We have no idea what it is, but we do know that more likely than not, we’re going to spend the next month re-running that same experiment. Sigh.

And then. Then, inevitably we get data we believe, data that show that we’ve made the molecule we meant to make or something like that. We think about all these things and we say to ourselves, “These data look too good. I’m missing something. I’m going to run the experiment again.”  Sigh, again.

It’s pretty in fashion right now in some circles to discount science as abstract and disconnected with the real world or to claim science has no advantage over various other sources of knowledge. I sometimes wonder why I don’t see more scientists speaking up about that, pushing back a little. Then, I see this cartoon and I’m reminded why they aren’t. They’re busy running that experiment for the 40th time, because this time (for reals!) they’ll figure out why its catching on fire in step 11.

This is a followup to a recent post in Curator’s Choice by Chad Haney (https://plus.google.com/105917944266111687812/posts/3r8ghecybAW

Cartoon from Twisted Doodles: http://www.twisteddoodles.com/post/86414780702/working-in-science

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28 Comments


  1. What arrogant crap. The problem with science and the public is lack of communication and being able to convey ideas. This cartoon reinforces science’s greatest obstacle…. Sharing knowledge with the layman. If you scientists are so smart why would you all isolate yourselves with Yesmen who don’t contradict you. I’d try a different tact in spreading science to the public. I think an insulting cartoon will not further your cause. And if you’re not smart enough to figure it out….you need the public to fund your science (see Tesla vs Edison)

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  2. We need the positive media and engagement from all the people on the left to ensure we keep funding the people on the right.  When anti-science and anti-intellectualism rears it’s ugly head the funding stops and the masses turn to snake oil salesmen to take their money.  We need more promotion of science to get more people interested in science at a younger age.  

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  3. I do know 4 a fact that our Science is not perfect,that is Y scientists do lots of research. And will always b like that 4 years to come. just like our lives sometimes. F U believe in doctors curing deseases, then By JOVE!! Everyone on this EARTH believe and love SCIENCE just like I do!!

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  4. The cartoon describes well how some non-scientists have tried to tell me, a scientist, how science is the answer to everything, how I should have watched some presentation on the Big Bang to know how muons disprove the existence of God, how if I knew science I would agree with their economic views, and the like. OTOH, a third column would show the non-scientists telling us how “common sense” disproves global climate change, the need for good nutrition for children, and the like.

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  5. get over yourself…. if it wouldn’t be science it would be the bible….the most misinterpreted text in history. This cartoon is arrogant dribble. Which makes me, a scientist, hate you more for sliding in that you are one. Big deal.

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  6. radrobbmx we can do without your brand of vituperation, thank you! The point of this post is that there is a lot of hard work and failure behind the flashy meme. A good science communicator can manage to get both the triumph and travail across to their audience without sacrificing either. 

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  7. radrobbmx Oh, grow up. You seem to be the only one here who hates the cartoon. I have to question what quality of scientist you are if you can’t post an adult comment.


    FTR, I’m a biologist and a Roman Catholic Christian who is proud to have other Christian, Jewish, and Muslim relatives. Your childish, fulminating rage fails to scare or even impress me. If you really hate me for having faith and for mentioning I’m a scientist, let’s trade addresses and go face to face, OK?


    You should have gotten the rabies vaccine.

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  8. Science on Google+ if a lot of hard work went in to berating those not in science… then you’re doing it wrong. I stand by my comment. This meme is arrogant crap which polarizes the public from science not draws them in. You are the problem

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  9. radrobbmx No, you’re the problem. You still need those rabies shots, since you can’t stand anyone who dares to dispute your rigid little worldview.


    Just what kind of scientist are you? I’ve told you I’m a biologist.

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  10. The cartoon seems more enlightening than humorous.  It’s not an easy thing and I think people do trust “science” implicitly.  Anyone will use any type of evidence to support their statement or views.

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  11. people do trust  Fill in any profession here….  


    -news anchors, pundits


    -hollywood


    -doctors


    -police


    -pastor priest


    -friends


    -parents


    This cartoon is arrogant BS. It is just an attack at a more populist science channel I fucking love science  from a bunch of jealous haters. The thing scientists like those commenting here hate the most are popular, attractive, fit scientists….It seems so unfair to have it all. So the writer made a cartoon about how sharing scientific knowledge should be left to the “pros” like himself. 

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  12. radrobbmx


    “The thing scientists like those commenting here hate the most are popular, attractive, fit scientists….It seems so unfair to have it all.” Do you really believe what you just wrote? What have physical attributes to do with this cartoon? Your sentence makes no sense.

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