To be a serious contender in the world of life sciences, you need to be a top-notch researcher, with a clear and logical mind that enables you to analyse the data and make sense of findings. However, a good scientist certainly must have a sense of wonder and curiosity that pushes them to explore further and uncover new possibilities.
An important element of working in the sciences is the integrity and work ethic that is expected of all participants in this field simply because results and data collected will influence the work of other scientists worldwide. When research is carried out, a meticulous set of records need to be kept so that other scientists can replicate the work and add to the body of information being collated.
Considering the amount of research carried out in science and medicine, it is important that quality of work remains of the highest order. To this effect, peer review is used by scientists in choosing what to publish in journals. Peer review is therefore a vital element of scientific research where the validity, significance and originality of research papers are checked. Clarity is also of utmost importance to enable other researchers to replicate the work and verify the results. Peer reviewed journals are therefore considered to have the highest quality of work and are quoted by other researchers as supporting material for their own work.
Publishing scientific and medical research online or in news channels does not carry the significance of a peer reviewed journal because they can be seen as merely hype or to scare the reading/viewing public into buying a cure or changing their consumption patterns. Any breakthrough or discoveries must first be validated by other scientists for it to be of significance to the bigger populace. Students of science, even in the undergraduate stage would therefore do well to start their journeys by reading scientific journals and subscribing to material that will help them better understand how the scientific world works.
As credible as scientific journals are, there are times when even peer review cannot stop bad research from being published. A good example is an incident that occurred in December 2005 when South Korean scientist Dr Hwang Woo Suk stunned the scientific world by admitting that his stem cell research used fabricated data. Dr Hwang’s findings had been published in the journal Science on research that he had carried out that was supposed to change healthcare practices and bring cure to diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s. As much as the spotlight was on Dr Hwang, it also cast doubts on the peer review process, a process that has been in existence for centuries. The journal subsequently retracted the paper and conducted a review process of its own practices.
What’s important here is to realise that science is very much a field of unknowns and uncharted territories, and as such individuals venturing here need to have the highest integrity and credibility themselves. There can be no compromise in quality or ethics when it comes to truthfully collating data, creating experimentation methods or conducting research. After all, the truth is supposed to set you free.