This morning, I was talking with my eight year old about the basic tenets of the Scientific Method - the method that guides virtually all areas of scientific investigation. It goes something like this:
A scientist has a question. So she creates a guess She tests her guess and if it answers her question, she tests it again and again and again just to be sure. If it doesn't answer her question she goes back to square one. And when she has reached the point where she can find no other plausible answer to her question, she publishes her guess and her experiments so that the members of the scientific community can make attempt to duplicate her methods and make their own guesses if necessary.
There you have it. Scientific Method 101. Any scientists worth their salt knows how it works - including my eight year old. But unfortunately, it seems that a few scientists tried to skip some of these critical steps recently and it has landed them in a bit of hot water.
In January, the scientific community was abuzz with the news that researchers from Harvard University and Japan's RIKEN Institute had uncovered a way to create new stem cells without altering their DNA. The news was exciting because stem cells could potentially be used to treat everything from cancer to diabetes, and this new process promised to make it easier and more efficient to use stem cells in research.
BUT...and here is the big but...It seems the scientists that produced this research, kinda-sorta forgot about the basic principles of the Scientific Method. They forgot that it's not good science unless it can be duplicated and proven again, and again, and again.
In fact, it seems that scientists around the world have been trying to duplicate the original experiments for months, but no one has yet to accomplish that goal. The papers original authors admit that some of the data and photographs may be misleading. And while they still contend that their stem cell research is valid, the Harvard researchers joined in the call to retract the papers until the errors can be addressed.
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