Recent events have raised serious questions about whether our government is capable of ensuring that legitimate research is done for honest purposes only. The growing epidemic of research fraud, where scientists knowingly fabricate or exaggerate data to get funding or praise, has many worried about the state of science today.
Research can play an important role in helping us find new ways to prevent, treat and cure diseases. Unfortunately, these benefits come with some risk — sometimes researchers will want to test something that could potentially be harmful to people.
But how do you ensure that this safety is guaranteed? What if someone wants to conduct dangerous experiments for personal profit instead of for public good?
It’s hard to say what actions are too aggressive or unethical when it comes to scientific experimentation. After all, we as humans experiment on each other every day! So why should doing so in a laboratory be any different?
That being said, there are certain steps that governments can take to help protect the integrity of medical research. These include requiring independent oversight, auditing studies for discrepancies, and having investigators who aren’t paid directly by the funder scrutinize their work.
These safeguards can keep researchers honest, but they won’t eliminate all bad actors from the field entirely. And even though fraudulent research may not always benefit just individuals, society at large still suffers when trust in science is eroded.
Examples of federal government regulation of science
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has long regulated how forensic scientists conduct their investigations. For example, they must use published methods to determine if evidence is relevant and conducted in accordance with best practices.
The FBI also regulates what types of chemicals can be used for testing. These regulations are designed to ensure that only scientifically appropriate reagents or chemical agents are employed during analysis and that workers are not exposed to harmful substances while working with them.
In addition to these internal guidelines, the FBI requires that all forensic experts follow external standards set by professional organizations like the American Academy of Forensic Sciences or the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors.
These groups develop and enforce certification requirements as well as ethics codes that govern how forensic professionals should behave towards individuals and properties related to cases they work on.
Politics may affect science
Recent events show that this is very true! In fact, it has already been proven to be true. All you have to do is read our article above about how politics affects medical research.
Recent political controversies over scientific studies are clear examples of politicians trying to influence what we know about medicine and diet.
For example, in May 2018 Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) released an opinion piece arguing against the use of statins to lower cholesterol.
Cotton argued that there is no proof that lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol reduces your risk of heart disease and death. He says studying statin drugs for these purposes was a “fiasco.”
In his op-ed, he mentions two studies that found low levels of LDL caused some people to get sick or even die from a non-disease condition. This happened because their body didn’t realize they were being fed less food than normal and made too much fat to keep them alive.
He also discusses one study that found higher doses of a statin helped treat patients with a rare genetic disorder called Cholesteryl Ester Storage Disease. But, he argues, this only worked for three months before the patient died.
Funding is important
As we have seen, funding is an essential part of conducting scientific research. It is what pays for all the materials involved in testing a drug or device, paid laboratory staff to analyze the results, and paying for your researcher’s lunch every now and then.
Finding adequate funds to conduct legitimate science — something that has been increasingly difficult due to the ever-increasing costs of research – is one of the biggest challenges facing scientists today.
There are many ways governments can help fund academic research. One of the most common ways is through grants. A grant is given to someone seeking money to perform a specific task. For example, a doctor may apply for a grant to study how well new medical treatments work compared to standard ones.
Another way government funded research is by having an open call process. This happens when a company or organization holding an event announces it will give out some money. People who want to receive the money must register with no cost other than making a short application.
The applications are reviewed and those getting funding are usually not told who awarded it to them until later, if they ask.
Research locations are important
As we have seen, funding is not the only factor that determines what types of research get done and where they get conducted. Another major player in determining how successful academic studies will be is the location at which the study is conducted.
Finding appropriate levels of funding for your career can feel like an uphill battle. Even when you have all the necessary resources, securing the right amount of funding to accomplish your goal can take time!
Luckily, there are ways to mitigate this by conducting scientific research in more suitable environments. The best place to do this is somewhere with a strong community spirit or that already contains content related to your field.
This way, it won’t seem too out of place or strange for other people to be investing their money in the area as well. Plus, you can use the strengths of the environment to boost your chances of being awarded funding!
There are many factors involved in choosing the ideal venue for doing academic work, such as whether or not the department has enough funding to conduct meaningful experiments, if there are existing collaborations between researchers and institutions, and if the colleagues working there are friendly and trustworthy. All these things contribute to creating a supportive atmosphere that encourages creative thinking.
And while some may consider studying outside of academia to be less prestigious, this isn’t always the case- especially now, when universities are trying hard to increase their prestige through different marketing strategies.
Personalities of scientists may affect results
As mentioned earlier, not every scientist works under the same leadership styles or in an environment that is supportive of others. This can influence the way they conduct research and publish it.
Part of this comes down to personal preferences. For example, some researchers enjoy working alone and completing tasks by themselves, so they’ll recruit other people with similar work habits for studies.
Other individuals prefer to have more than one person involved in their study, so they’ll look for professionals who share this style. This could be due to a lack of interest in doing things on your own or because you like interacting with others.
There are many different types of personalities, which makes it hard to say what affects what when it comes to scientific research.
Scientists may be influenced by their peers
As human beings, we are social creatures. We rely heavily on our surrounding environment to get through life. This dependence is strong enough that slight changes in this environment can have major impacts on us.
For example, when you’re around people who eat lots of sugar, your body will begin to produce more glucose (a simple carbohydrate) to try and balance out the blood chemistry.
This can sometimes go too far, though. When most of your friends and family are eating something rich, it can push you towards eating similar foods or even start eating habits that contribute to obesity or diabetes.
We’ve seen this before with fake studies — studies that seem convincing but are actually fraudulent.
That’s why there are rules against researchers working for food companies – they might be tempted to put company products into the experiments they do as an employee. It could affect how well they perform their job, and potentially influence the results in ways that benefit the company.
Scientists may be influenced by their sponsors
As mentioned before, funding is a major source of power for scientists. Funding comes in many forms such as from private corporations or government agencies.
Private companies can offer large sums of money to do research about products that they want to promote. This article would not exist without the sponsorship of Pepsi!
Government agencies often ask researchers to test out new medications or devices on paid volunteers instead of paying participants who are already invested in the company’s product.
This kind of sponsored research is unethical because it incentivizes doctors to prescribe and patients to use the product rather than choosing alternatives because it is free.
Use research results to
determine what topics are important for students to learn about
That is something that student interest surveys can help with. By asking students how interested they are in learning certain concepts, you get an indication of which concepts they want to know more about.
Student survey instruments vary quite a bit depending on the field and level of education that students belong to. For example, at the high school level there are things like the Student Survey Questionnaire, The Schooldex questionnaire, and others. These ask questions such as “What courses do you feel ready to take next year?” or “Which areas do you think should be made more available to you?”
For college-level students, there are different types of assessments designed to find out what their interests are. Some examples include:
Surveys given during freshman year
Questionnaires given after classes each semester
Take some time to read up on these tools and see what you can pick up!
Another way to control scientific research is by looking into what professional groups exist and who belongs to them. You could look into whether this person received compensation for speaking at a conference or not, if they published papers related to their area of expertise, and so forth. This would also show if they are actively working in their field and engaging in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.