New Horizons

Hey all,

I’m hoping to keep this blog somewhat active, but if I fail, you can find me over at Lateral Magazine, where I have my own monthly column talking all things science.

If you have any ideas for me (or for you! The editor is always open to new pitches, contact details are on the Lateral site), please let me know and I’ll overthink them to my heart’s content.

Here’s my new location’s blurb, which I didn’t personally write but it’s preeeetty accurate.

Overt Analyser is a monthly column by Chloe Warren that reflects on her experiences as a twenty-something scientist. Chloe is a PhD student in medical genetics at the University of Newcastle and really thinks too much about most things.”

Just quietly, I’m pretty chuffed to be getting paid to be doing something I love. It’s been a long time coming!

So long, and thanks for all the fish*.

*feedback and support

Work Experience for Twenty-Somethings

In my first year of my PhD, I was lucky enough to attend the (inaugural!) EMBL Australia Molecular Biology Summer School (AKA Nerd Camp). I remember being told by Terry Speed (all round bioinformatics guru) that the secret to having successful career in medical research is to learn more maths. Or, if you’re more confident with your maths than your biology, you need to learn more biology. In short: you should always be out of your comfort zone.

I guess that’s sound advice for people in most fields. You should always be looking to develop new skills, make new connections and learn as much as you can.

But when it comes to seeking employment, there’s always going to be a required skill-set. And while it’s true that pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone will help to extend that skill-set – just how far are we expected to push?

I sought out some advice from a careers counsellor recently, and upon learning that I was interested in:

-science communication

-public engagement

-education

-working with children

-and events management…

…they told me that I needed to pick just one of these interests and then get a diploma in it.

I’m 26. I have three A-Levels, a BSc, 2/3 of a science PhD and experience in each of these areas I talked about with my counsellor. I more than understand that having a PhD does not automatically qualify me for any job. However, what I want to know is: just how much experience do people need in a field before they can consider working in it? Perhaps more importantly, getting PAID for doing it?

I was recently asked to write a blog post aimed at high school students about the benefits of volunteering. It’s true, volunteering has got me far in terms of developing a professional network and building on my skills. But I understand that having the capacity to volunteer is not a luxury available to all of us. I have a supportive supervisor, partner and family without whose help I would not have had the time available to do any of my volunteering. And while I’m yet to be offered (much/any) paid work despite my experiences, I’m not so keen to write a piece encouraging young people to follow the same path as me.

If the expectation is that, on top of my time spent pursuing my interests in order to gain more applicable skills, I am to gain qualification after qualification, that’s not advice I am ready to give. It’s not realistic to expect people to be experts in every area they are asked to work within or task they are to perform in the workplace. Learning needs to take place here, too, or we will spend our whole lives in training.

As put by the wise James Arvanitakis at the recent Young Writers’ Festival (and I’m paraphrasing here), “The most important skill we can teach young people is adaptability.” Just welcome us into your workplace and watch us flourish! It’s amazing what a person can do with an ACTUAL INCOME.

Come on guys. I’ve been on a panel. A PANEL. That’s got to count for something. Right? RIGHT?!! Image credit to Carol Duncan

Neither the Bang nor the Butt

Before I get started, I would like to define, “science” for the purposes of this post. Please note that science does not equal academia. Academia has its own problems and I am not going anywhere near those (right now)…

science noun
  1. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment

Like a lot of the things I come out with, this is a preemptive explanation.

This week I filmed a three minute segment for the NBN children’s show, “So There!” One of the producers contacted me after seeing a piece about my outreach work in the Newcastle Herald aaaand I got quite excited.

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It’s a pretty straightforward segment. I perform three “experiments” (which can be easily repeated at home) whilst narrating the science behind what’s happening. This is the basic premise of my kids’ parties, with the obvious difference being those are interactive!

Now, because I am me, and because I am not the most optimistic of individuals, I’d like to think I am aware of most of the pitfalls and judgements attached to science communication – especially with children. Hence this pre-emptive explanation, which should hopefully roughly translate as: Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

Most of the attempts to get children interested in science is based on the (other) Big Bang Theory. This is the theory wherein, if something makes a big enough Bang, then kids will be impressed – and the job is done. Now, I’m all for making kids happy, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot more to science than Bangs. The Big Bang Theory is one of the reasons why IFLS has been so popular – but it’s also one of the reasons why many scientists feel the site can really let the side down when it comes to science communication.

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All credit to the lovely Cyanide and Happiness guys, check them out http://explosm.net/comics/3557/

It’s one of the reasons scientists can shy away from communication and outreach. I was actually talking to one of my colleagues who is very pro-active about spreading the word about his work, but yet he is disappointed by this mentality. He was telling me about a trip to a science museum where he witnessed a kids’ science show which consisted entirely of things which go Bang. Now, because I am me, I took this as a slight towards my TV work (hehehe “my TV work”). I asked him how he proposed we SHOULD get kids interested in science – and of course he didn’t know.

Good scientists need to be a number of things. We need to be inquisitive, organised and creative. We need critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. If we can encourage kids to develop even a few of these skills, we’re getting there. And remember, we’re not trying to cultivate a generation comprised entirely of scientists. We do not need a world full of researchers – we cannot support a world full of researchers! What we’re really trying to cultivate is a culture. A culture wherein everyone would be aware of science, everyone would respect science and everyone would appreciate science. In this ideal world, logic would prevail – and also there would be more funding for scientific research (!). No one would have to waste their time explaining why Paleo is nonsense, why vaccinating your children is the kindest thing you can do (unless they are immuno -compromised or otherwise unable to receive the injection! Can’t catch me, anti-vaxxers!), why coffee enemas are never going to cure cancer or why climate change is real (just ask John Oliver). People would make decisions based on evidence. People would ask intelligent questions. People would face the world with an open mind.

The truth is, the science is not the Bang – the science is in the asking WHY? In showing kids something so surprising or loud or colourful, we’re encouraging them to ask, “Why?” – this “Why?” is the first step to encouraging a scientific mind. Yes – the kids are looking at Science’s butt as it walks by. And THAT’S when the hard work comes in. Anyone can drop a Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke, but it’s making the explanation accessible and interesting that’s the tricky part. Also encouraging further questioning – leaving some things unsaid and waiting for the dots to join so you can make way for hypothesis building and fill in the blanks when the time comes (this can be tough on TV…).

My point is, that just because I am taking advantage of the Other Big Bang Theory, it doesn’t mean that I am “selling out”. I still consider myself a scientist, and I still hold the values of science very close. I’m using the Theory as leverage. It’s my “in” for building the foundation for inquisitive minds.

Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

As far as developing this mind even further – beyond the Bang, beyond the butt– what do you think? How can we encourage appreciation for the scientific method – hypothesis forming, how to scrutinise sources, critical thinking – as children get older and we have a bit more faith in their attention span?

I’ve had a few lesson plan/ outreach activity/ museum ideas around this theme and I’d love to share them with any interested teachers or communicators!

My Fellow Tweeps-To-Be

Last week, I was honored to be a part of the Franklin Women event, “Making social media work for your career.” I had a really great evening; it was wonderful to be surrounded by such supportive, motivated and intelligent women. Thank you to everyone who came, and to the inspirational Dr Melina Georgousakis for inviting me to be a part of it.

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Though we did address a number of platforms on the night, Twitter was more or less the headlining act. A number of attendees either signed up for an account or sent their first tweet that very night, as a result of being inspired by the discussions (Shout out to @mrsxandra @magda_ellis @Brigid_Og @bhonah025 and @kamilla_marzec to name a few!).

While I’m excited to be spreading the good word, I’m also aware that merely joining Twitter does not a tweep make (tweep (n) regular user and enjoyer of Twitter). A billion users who tried Twitter have never come back. This is due in part to (what I believe to be) some shortcomings of the platform, as well as people not really knowing HOW to make the most out of their account.

I’m a natural problem solver (see: PhD student), as well as a bit of a bossy pants, so I’m here to provide you with a solution. A short(ish) primer on how to make the most of your brand spanking new (or plain neglected) Twitter account.

Twitter Terminology

#            The hashtag is a way to label your tweet. If you are tweeting about a TV show, conference, hobby etc and include a relevant #hashtag, it means that someone searching for relevant tweets can find yours easily. It’s also how a topic can start to “Trend”: if millions of people are talking about marriage equality (Hooray!), then the relevant #hashtag, #LoveWins may well start to Trend. Oh look!

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Follow         If you follow someone, their tweets will appear in your feed (feed = flow of tweets as seen on your home page).

@          @ represents the start of someone’s Twitter handle (I’m @cfawarren), and it’s also a way to send a tweet to someone (“Hey @cfawarren, I found this picture of a guinea-pig in a sombrero, thought you might enjoy!”). They will receive a notification of your tweet. Using @handle means that only the person you are tweeting and their followers will be able to see the tweet.

.@         Using .@ instead of @ means that your tweet can be seen by anyone (but only the person you are tweeting will get a notification). Using @ or .@ is often referred to in digital and non-digital conversation as “pinging” (“Did you see @cfawarren was pinging me pictures of guinea pigs all day AGAIN today?!”).

Retweet              (square arrows) If you retweet a tweet, it means it will appear in all of your follower’s newsfeeds.

Favourite            (star) If you favourite a tweet, the tweeter will get a notification. It’s the Twitter equivalent of a Facebook “like”. It basically says, “I approve!”, but with minimal actual effort. Favourited tweets will also get put in your Favourites List (on your profile page). It can be useful for marking things to read later.

favRT

Lists       You can compile your followers into lists, then look at the feed for each list separately. One of the reasons some people don’t like Twitter is that it moves too fast. If you follow a few actual friends as well as a couple of hundred scientists, science news sources and guinea pig breeders, chances are you will never actually see any of your friends’ tweets unless they are pinging you specifically. By putting your friends IRL (in real life) into a list, you can make sure you see everything they have to say. Unfortunetely, building lists in Twitter is a pain in the balls (very fiddly, not streamlined at all) so it’s best to add people into the relevant list as you follow them. This is best practise…but I don’t do it because I’m impatient. If you already have a load of tweeps you’d like to organise into lists, I’d recommend doing it in Hootsuite (though still not perfect).

DM        Sending a DM (direct message) to someone means that only they can see it. It’s a private conversation.

pigs

Building Your Twitter Experience

Twitter is a way to personalise the internet. Millions of articles are posted online every day: with Twitter, you can increase the chances that you’ll see the ones which are relevant to you. And it will facilitate discussions with others about topics YOU care about. From experience, you are way less likely to get trolled on Twitter than you are on a message board (but the risk is definitely still there!). Twitter is a way to connect with people with similar interests to you, and to access information about your interests. But you have to establish your follows and followers first. Here’s some tips on getting started and speeding up the process:

-Use lists             You can build your own lists (as mentioned previously) in order to organise your tweeps. You can also subscribe to other people’s lists. Once you subscribe to someone’s list, all of the tweets from tweeps on that list will appear in your feed. You can still unfollow an individual from a list you are subscribed to, don’t worry, it’s not an all or nothing system. This is a quick way to make your news feed interesting. I have several science-y lists you are welcome to subscribe to.

-Write a bio       You can’t expect people to follow you if they don’t know who you are. Use the bio feature to write a few words about yourself. Think about the kind of people you want to connect with and why: if they read your bio, do you think they’d find YOU of interest? I generally don’t follow back people without a bio because I don’t know who they are: I generally assume it’s a spammer.

-Have a display pic         Fair enough if you don’t want your face attached to your profile. Pick a picture of your pet guinea pig, a plant, a test tube, whatever. Just make sure it’s not the sodding egg. That egg screams, “I never use this account so don’t bother following me” and also “SPAM SPAM SPAM”.

No.

No.

-Have a personality        Try not to be too sterile when it comes to tweeting. I like to obide by “The Grandma Rule” (if you wouldn’t say it in front of your Grandma, don’t say it on the internet), and also “The Cocktail Party Rule” (if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face in front of a room full of people, don’t say it on the internet – thanks @StartupShelley). But that doesn’t mean you have to be a robot. Express your opinions, your loves, your hates, yourself! The connections you make will be way more valuable, you’ll enjoy it more and you’ll help make scientists look like actual humans.

All set? Got the lingo down and a couple of interesting followers? Great! Let’s go! Tweet away! Oh wait…

What to Tweet

A few suggestions…

-Be inspired by some trending hashtags               You might notice that your newsfeed will become inundated with recurring hashtags or themes from time to time. Remember #GirlsWithToys and #distractinglysexy ? These were great hashtags because they were accessible, fun and they were promoting an important message about women in science. Keep your eyes peeled for another opportunity like this, I’m sure it won’t be long before another one comes along.

Elevator pitching          Here’s one I’d like to think most academics are capable of. Tweet about your research! Try and make it as accessible as possible without being patronising. Get your “science sound bites” (another thanks to @StartupShelley !) out there. It’s a rhetoric I’ve heard several times at sci-comm events, but it’s true: the internet is a vacuum. If you don’t get in there and put actual science into the arena, there’s an endless supply of pseudoscientists waiting to make their contribution instead. Tweeting about your research also builds your personal “brand”. Wanky, I know. But if you put yourself out there as the expert that you are, people will recognise it. Importantly, journalists will recognise it. Future employers will notice it. Potential collaborators will recognise it.

-Share what you’re reading                      What interesting news or topical pieces have you read recently? What was your take on it? Did it remind you of anyone who might appreciate it? Ping, hashtag and retweet away! A lot of articles will have a “Twitter share” button already on the page.

-What are you doing this weekend?       Easy as.

-Join in with a conversation        Talk to your friends. Talk to strangers. Talk to (potential) mentors. If you can see people are having a conversation about something that interests you, jump in!

-Conferences     Find out the official hashtag for a conference or event, and use it to tweet your ideas and interpretations of presentations. Use it to find new tweep friends IRL! Use it to engage with people who aren’t at the conference but who want to know more. Use it to ask presenters questions if you’re feeling shy.

Twitter has helped me to build my confidence and my networks. It’s helped with my research and training. It’s helped me to connect with mentors. It’s helped me build my reputation. It’s helped me secure a number of invaluable opportunities (some of which I actually got paid for!).

Last but not least: it’s fun! Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

pic pc

Mission: Birthday Party

My mission was clear, though far from simple.

It was my responsibility to recruit and train the next generation of scientists, such that they may find a way out of this terrible mess we had gotten ourselves into. Global warming, food shortage, antibiotic resistance: it was clear that we stupid adults were fairly inept at taking care of ourselves and our environment. My recruitment officer, Mollie, had taken it upon herself to use her birthday celebrations a way to bring together the best minds of her generation (*ahem* classroom) such that I could hope to prepare them for what lay ahead.

Many people told me I was foolish to expect so much from 8 year olds. Did they really have it in them to understand the fundamental states of matter AND their transition states? The complexities of pH, density and chemical reactions?

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The recruits enjoying some vital R&R in preparation for their rigorous training

It is true, I cannot lie: at times I did fear I had taken too much on. But I held onto my hopes that my students, though short and easily distracted, would have a number of other key qualities which would render them perfect scientists.

Indeed, when I finally coaxed them away from their chocolate, footballs, trampolines and playhouses, I quickly realised that 8 year olds are not lacking in these qualities. In particular, I am of course talking about creativity, playfulness and inquisitiveness. Vital skills for any scientist worth their salt! I was also made to feel much more confident when I saw the quality of the resources at our disposal. The laboratory was beyond satisfactory.

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Our first task (I brought along my trusty aide, confidante and housemate to assist on the day in question) was to introduce the students to the three major states of matter. This lesson was very straightforward, and it was streamlined with the provision of:

  1. A simple diagram,
particle model

Solids, liquids and gases

2. Hands on examples (ice cubes melt when you transfer them some heat energy from your hands, water turns into stem when you transfer heat energy using a kettle)

3. Thought provoking questions relating to a familiar context i.e. the human body. (who can name a GAS inside the human body?! 😉 )

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FART JOKES

We were ready to enter the laboratory. Inside, I had prepared learning materials such that the recruits would become familiar with several new concepts.

Unfortunately, the laboratory had taken on the smell of wet cabbage; it was integral that we had buckets of red cabbage water on hand for the duration of our experiments. Reb cabbage water has the interesting quality of being a colour change “INDICATOR” – which just means it can tell us things when it changes colour. In particular, it can tell us whether a chemical is an ACID, BASE or NEUTRAL.  “What do these strange new words mean?”, my curious little students asked. I assured them, “Scientists are really keen on grouping things together. How many ways do you think I could separate you into groups? That’s right: eye colour, are you wearing a dress or pants, hair colour, girl or boy… CHEMIALS can also be grouped together into ACID, BASE or NEUTRALS.”

“Acids tend to taste SOUR and be CORROSIVE – like how eating lots of sugar CORRODES your teeth: it makes holes in them.”

“Bases tend to taste BITTER like coffee or dark chocolate, and feel SLIPPERY.”

“…Now who wants to test out some of our mystery CHEMICALS with the INDICATOR?”

IMG_3574Soft drink, sherbet, vinegar and lemon juice are all ACIDS: they are sugary and/or sour– that’s why it’s so important to brush your teeth after eating!

Mylanta, toothpaste and soap are all BASES. Mylanta helps to make your stomach LESS ACIDIC when you have eaten too much of the wrong food. Toothpaste helps protect your teeth from ACIDIC food. And soap feels SLIPPERY – remember?!

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Meanwhile, my assistant was taking on a more creative project: making lava lamps (as well teaching humans born in 2005 WHAT a lava lamp IS).

“Remember those molecules that are packed REALLY TIGHT in solids, LESS TIGHT in liquids and are LOOSELY packed in gases? Well, that tightness is referred to as DENSITY.”

The students then partook in an experiment and creative exercise involving six major components: an empty plastic bottle, water, vegetable oil, dissolvable aspirin, food colouring and air.

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Their first task (with the help of adults and an abundance of funnels) was to pour some oil and water together in their plastic bottle, then MIX it together. Of course, this was a clever trick. Why, you ask? Well of course the oil and water will not mix! It is because the oil is MORE DENSE than the water that it will sink to the bottom.

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Now for the creative part: the children could pick their favourite colours such that the water would change colour.

“What happens when you blow bubbles through a straw into your soft drink, other than your Mum and Dad getting annoyed?

The bubbles FLOAT: because they are full of AIR. What is AIR? It’s a GAS. What do we know about the density of GAS? Is it higher or lower than that of LIQUIDS? Of course it is LOW – which is why the bubbles rush to the top! So what do you think would happen if we put some GAS in the bottom of your bottle?

OK, but how are we going to get the GAS IN the bottle AND at the bottom?

Let me tell you about CHEMICAL REACTIONS. They are happening all the time! They happen in your tummy after you eat, they happen in the car’s engine, they happen when you cook food…and a lot of the time, these reactions will cause the production of GAS.

So we just need a chemical reaction to happen in the bottom of the bottle! And how do we do that? We use these special fizzy tablets (dissolvable aspirin) . They CHEMICALLY REACT with LIQUID…and give us a lovely lava lamp in the process!”

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Fantastic. It was time to move the scientists outside for the final installment of their training.

“What happens when you get in the bath? You have a wash? You get bubbles all over the floor? You splash your brother and sister? Great. Guess what else happens? The water moves up the edge of the bath – your body DISPLACES the water – so the water level rises.”

“What do you think would happen if we could DISPLACE the liquid from this soft drink bottle?”

“Do you think it might explode…?”

“OK how can we get GAS in the bottom of the bottle? I seem to recall having this problem before…? A CHEMICAL REACTION? Great, I have just the thing! These sweeties react with the soft drink and produce LOTS of GAS! Stand back…”

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I was so proud to have my recruits graduate with flying colours. We celebrated with cake and hand-ball, and I am more than confident the students will go on to have a promising future in science.. saving the world, curing diseases, rescuing near extinct species. Nothing too lofty.IMG_3632 IMG_3671

Making Social Media Work For Your Career

Hey there everyone.

So since becoming more active on twitter and writing regularly for this blog, a lot of doors have opened for me. I think that’s pretty neat and I’d love to share my stories and advice. Heaps of other women working in science have had similar experiences with social media and some of us (@startupshelley @djmarsh24 @bridianne and Victoria Hollick) are going to sit on the panel at this Franklin Women event. If you’re interested in attending on 24th June in Sydney, please tweet me @cfawarren, @franklinwomen or email melina@franklinwomen.com.au.

Take care!

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Love, Trust, Science and Ducks

Several weeks ago, a well-respected and widely popular Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig published what appeared to be an anti-vaccination cartoon in The Age.

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I, among others, was disappointed. Others were angry AND disappointed. Predictably, plenty of people took to twitter to criticize the artist’s work and opinions.

This is pretty typical of non-anti-vaxxers’ response to anti-vaxxers. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that the majority of us regard the anti-vaxx message as one of ignorance as opposed to one to be taken seriously. On the other hand, treating these people with such disrespect and aggression isn’t really getting us anywhere.

While respecting the individual’s right to opinion is a valuable moral to hold, respect in this instance can be a pretty hard thing to find. Parents who elect not to vaccinate are putting other babies and immuno-compromised individuals at risk, whilst putting an unnecessary strain on health care systems.  Many of us are lucky enough to never have witnessed the devastating effects of these preventable diseases thanks to the technological advances in modern medicine. Some of us are unenlightened enough to regard this luck with such complacency that they will consciously make the decision to leave their children unprotected.

However, the reality of the matter is that these people are standing up against vaccination because they are scared. They are standing up to defend their children and their community for what they perceive to be a very real danger. This is all despite the fact that government, scientists, health care workers and journalists (or at least those worth their salt) have struggled for so long to reassure those of us who may be worried about the adverse consequences of vaccination.

There is, to date, no scientific evidence which suggests that not vaccinating a child is a healthier choice than vaccinating a child. Searching the term “anti-vaccination” in a science publication database brings up nothing but communication guidelines for health care workers and sociological studies. I could copy and paste infinite links to scientific publications here (Oh go on, have a few [ref] [ref]), but it would do nothing to sway the opinion of an anti-vaxxer.

So we can review. Aggressive techniques for reasoning are, unsurprisingly, ineffective. Educational techniques for reasoning are ineffective (see, “The Backfire Effect” and a wonderful This American Life episode which explores this theme). Even bribery techniques are /would be ineffective (and immoral…).

Why is this? Why does the anti-vaxx movement persist?

At the root of these educational techniques for reasoning i.e. the scientific argument, lays a major factor which often gets forgotten about.

Trust.

Doctors and scientists are asking the public to trust them. More than that: they are asking the public to trust science.

Many of us view science as a collection of facts. It’s unsurprising therefore that the public can distrust science. One day scientists are telling them that red wine is good for you because is decreases risk for cardiovascular disease, while the next day they’re reminding them that alcohol is a carcinogen, so don’t go crazy now. Who are these idiot scientists if they can’t even get their facts i.e. science right?

Where the idea of science being a collection of facts came from, I have no idea. But it’s a poisonous idea and it’s getting everyone into a lot of unnecessary trouble.

Science is a discipline. It’s an ever-evolving collection of ideas and evidence, constantly being constructed and deconstructed by people who dedicate their entire lives to this discipline. A career in scientific research is a blood bath. You are continually having your work ripped to shreds by your colleagues. And rightly so: researchers are building the legacy of their generation. There are strict systems in place to ensure that sub-par science will not make it into publication (and thus into the legacy). This system itself, the academic system, is forever evolving to improve the quality of the science it produces.

It makes sense therefore that science will contradict itself. It’s the very nature of the beast. Maybe this is why the public has so many trust issues with doctors and scientists. Who’s to say we won’t find anti-vaccination evidence tomorrow?

The thing is, we can’t promise that. By the same token though, I can’t promise you that I won’t wake up a million dollars richer tomorrow. But I’m pretty bloody sure about it. No one has ever randomly deposited cash in my bank account before, I haven’t entered any competitions and I haven’t been promoted. I’m using evidence to inform my conclusion that I am “pretty bloody sure” I won’t wake up a million dollars richer tomorrow.

In a recent interview with Michael Leunig on ABC News, he states,

“I think the science is incomplete, I honestly do.”

Well, I should hope so. Science is never complete. But what’s important to remember is that the evidence we have so far demonstrates that i) vaccinations aren’t dangerous (aside from some minor and temporary side effects) and ii) the diseases they protect against are. NOT vaccinating is like me assuming that I WILL wake up a million dollars richer AND going out and making a tonne of business deals with shady characters who have a habit of shooting off knee caps.

So how do we go about addressing our trust issues? I know this is often suggested as a “cure for all” in science communication circles, but improved education is certainly one way to go about it. If we were to teach how academic culture is designed to optimise the production of “good” science, children should begin to spot the variation in quality between different sources of information.

But then again, is an appreciation of science something we can physically teach?

Perhaps distrust is just an embedded human instinct, and we are forever destined to argue with each other. Alternatively, is our marketing-obsessed culture priming people for distrust? Is this age of distrust a consequence of the increased availability of (mis)information over the internet? A skeptical mind is a valuable thing, but a skeptical mind with access to misinformation could actually be considered dangerous.

Leunig made an interesting point during his interview,

“Is science the final say on everything?”

Well, no. Science will never have “a final say”. But it has a say. In fact, it has the only say. It’s the only real tool we have to maneuver ourselves and our families safely through this wonderful and mysterious thing we call life.