About science journals and their influence on research and your everyday lifeOn September 4, 2017 by neurotravels
A passionate scientist will have the goal to do research that has an impact, research that adds to the knowledge pool in his/her field of expertise, and beyond. But, after you conducted an experiment, how will you let everyone know about it?
A scientist won’t go and just somehow blob out his ideas and results into the world. That’s not how it works in our science bubble.
There is a structured way of letting everyone know your results and make them accessible in the right way. Of course there is 😉
How does this work?
We let each other know about our research through publications of scientific papers in science journals. In these articles we show, what the background of our research is, what our hypothesis was, how we did our experiments, what our results were and why they are important. A main goal of every scientist is it, to get published in good science journals. This is how other researchers will be able to access your work. Ideally, they will see it as a brilliant, new idea that was investigated using an elegantly designed experiment and then, they will cite your finding in their own papers. This is how you gain your reputation. And a good reputation also helps to have more success in getting grants (scientists must apply for money that then funds their research) and therefore makes their work even possible. Do you see the loop forming?
How do these scientific journals look like?
So, there exist heaps of these science-journals, that were the main celebrities in quite a few of my Instagram posts. They fill their editions with new, important and exciting studies coming from institutes distributed all over the world and showing the newest findings in a very standardised way. So cooool! #nerdattack
All scientific papers are all built up in the same way, meaning they have the same structure:
- An introduction to your theory and its background (background = existing literature = all the other papers out there that fit to this particular question). For example: how does a sleep drug affect memory? What do we already know about the mechanism of this drug? Which part of the brain and what stage of sleep does it influence? The hypothesis you investigate must make sense in the bigger picture, the purpose of your experiments must be explainable and reasonable.
- The methods you used in your experiment, preferably in very tiny, tiny detail. How did you do every single step? When? With what materials?
- Your results – with all the beautiful graphs and statistics.
- And then it always ends with a part called discussion, where we wrap up the results and bring them back into the context of what’s already known in the “literature”.
Science journals are seen as journals of different impact: it is like a hierarchy of “how good” or respected the journal is, or how hard it is to get published in there. Same as the news magazines that you might know, they have their different status or reputation. “Science”, “Nature”, “Cell” and “Neuron”, journals that you saw in my posts, are definitely in the top league of the science journal – reputation. Like the AFL of Australian Footie or the NBA for basketball – only the top of the top play in there. In theory. If this is a good system, is definitely disputable 😉
Why is all this even important?
So, there is heaps of #awesoome research going on. And that produces a looooooot of these papers. And a lot of pressure to bring your own papers, your research and results, out there and make them accessible for everyone else – before another group does! Pressure, to sell your work, like in every other world. Just in our research world, we are not directly getting money from selling our work (we actually sometimes must pay to sell our work #whaat?). Like I mentioned above, what we gain is reputation. If a laboratory group delivers continuous good work, it will be known for it and – coming back to talking money, they have more chances in getting funded and do more of the awesome research. What a loooop!
Therefore sometimes, there might be a bit of making the results look better than they are, a little bit here and there. Or of course, also can these papers include simple human mistakes. Or you might disagree with the authors about how to accurately present the data, which statistical model to use or how to interpret the behaviour a mouse has shown in her daily training.
We bubble- insiders, us scientists, we know about this system and, also about its flaws.
We also try everything to work against this in the best way we can. We are skeptical. We do not immediately believe what we hear or see. Ever.
So ideally, we always go back in reading the original literature. We ourselves, must identify, what is good or bad in this papers, how this other group presents their arguments, how they produced their data, how they analysed them statistically, how they got to their conclusion.
All these publications, and reading them, analysing them, finding good methods that others established and discussing these in brainstorming sessions, is a huge, huge (and vey fun) part of our job!
Importantly, what I want to highlight here is that, what in the end makes up a header in a post on the internet is in very rare cases considering the bigger picture of all the literature that is out there. It might not represent very well, what the group of scientists wanted to say with this paper. Very, very often in science, there is not one, simple truth. In too many cases, a headliner has nothing to do with the original research anymore, because they try to squeeze it all into one exciting sentence. We all together must do a better job in communicating science! But more of this topic and tips about how you can identify good vs. bad sources – that’s some more blog posts worth!
Stay tuned and subscribe below to be notified with every new post,