IT’S YOUR CHOICE! Sometimes a graph is just a graph So much is done under the aegis of ‘science’. Recently researchers from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab established that if graphs or formulas accompany medical information, consumers are more likely to believe that the products are more effective, even if the graphs carry no additional evidence. It seems that individuals are influenced by scientific-looking information simply because they perceive it to be true. Theoretically this puts a load of power into scientists’ hands - but are we handling it properly? The short answer is no. Every decent scientist believes in the scientific method and would not consider publishing results without measurable evidence based on systematic observation and experiment. This
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leaves the field wide open for marketers to exploit - usually for commercial gain for a few. Scientists really need to take up marketing. Let’s face it, we could conjure up some fantastic graphs to support our bid to increase scientific funding for the good of the broader community. At the same time we should produce some more quasi-scientific evidence to show why scientists need long-term tenure in their professional lives and salaries that reflect their education and contribution to society. But wait a minute, the above points are true - we don’t need to bodgie up some graphs and figures. On the whole, scientists are poorly remunerated and jobs are often contractual and rely on the whims of funding access. This means we can actually support our claims with real science. So in fact, we need to learn from the marketers rather than mock them. We need to present our case in a compelling way explaining why science and scientists are essential. And we don’t just need to convince
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each other that better funding models and better pay and conditions should be de rigueur. We need to put our case to industry so that the value of scientific research is recognised and industry funding increases to levels comparable with the rest of the developed world. We need to convince government so that science is taken seriously and funding is not so short-sighted that the only funding is for work with outcomes expected within the life span of the current party in power. We need the education system to value science so that science education is given higher priority with better, more inspiring curricula. We need the students coming through the school system to look forward to science lessons with anticipation and to genuinely think that a scientific career would be fantastic.
Every one of us needs to become a science marketer if we want to lift science to where it should be in the nation’s psyche.
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4 | LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - November 2014
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