This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

For the benefit of humanity

I FIND that I have to explain, fairly frequently, what it is that I am doing in PhDland. This is fantastic: it is great that people are interested. But just as frequently, people ask me why. More specifically, they ask to what end am I conducting my experiment? What benefit does it have for people?

This question troubles me and I think it troubles many scientists. Look at enough journal papers, no matter how disparate, and you will notice a trend: the final paragraph of the discussion of many, many papers often seems to have a loosely worded, research council-pleasing vague suggestion that the study in question might, in some way, be applied to humans. Search for many scientific terms, even highly specialist and unrelated terms, and chances are you'll come across something that mentions Parkinson's disease or cancer, often, perhaps, because the authors feel they have to. Newspapers do it too. There'll be a study in mice or flies and, sooner or later, the journalist will give in to temptation or the standard framework of a science report and bring humans into the picture. It is mightily tempting and I've been there myself. But do scientists really have a benefit to mankind in mind? More importantly, does their study need to benefit mankind to be justified?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Cervical cancer vaccine

(this post via Hagley Road to Ladywood)
From Malcolm Coles:

"I've pointed out that any concerned parents searching Google for information on the cervical cancer jab (in the tragic wake of a schoolgirl's death) see a mass of negative and inaccurate information linking the girl's death to the vaccine.

It turns out she died of an unrelated tumour [read what really happened here- ed]. But Google's results will give parents second thoughts about letting their daughters be vaccinated, even though the injection will save 00s of lives a year".

If you're looking for information regarding cervical cancer vaccine, please visit the NHS website.