Introducing the Ask-a-Scientist Series
As a scientist, I am often asked questions about how things work. That makes sense - my job is to figure out how stuff (specifically biological stuff) works. Sometimes the question is within my field of expertise, and I am happy to answer in excruciating detail (sorry, Dad, for rambling on a tangent that ended with x-linked recessive inheritance when all you wanted to know was if our chromosomes are connected). Other times, the question is outside of my sphere but is something that I, too, have wondered. In the latter case, these questions give me the push I need to reach out to colleagues and figure out answers.
In the spirit of figuring out answers, we are going to start a new series: Ask a Scientist. We'll feature questions that we have been asked previously, as well as new questions sent in by readers. Before we begin though, there is something I want to make absolutely clear.
It is really important, when writing as a person with a PhD, to distinguish between a personal opinion, and an expert opinion that is supported by scientific evidence.
As with many things in life, science does not always offer 100% certainty. However, there is something called "scientific consensus," which represents the closest thing to certainty that we have. Scientific consensus means that the vast majority of scientists agree with a conclusion that is backed by many rigorous studies. However, because scientists are humans, and humans have opinions, the fact that scientific consensus exists on a topic does not preclude the existence of dissenting opinions.
When answering Ask a Scientist questions, we will be transparent about the following things:
- the responding scientist’s background and qualifications to address the subject
- the level of scientific consensus that surrounds the issue, including...
- how much of the scientist’s response is based on consensus versus opinion
- the validity (or lack thereof) of alternative perspectives
It should also be noted that while responding scientists are affiliated with academic and research institutions, the views expressed on this blog represent those of the responding scientist alone, and not necessarily those of the scientist's affiliated institutions.
Keep a look out for our first question, coming very soon, and feel free to send in your questions using the Ask a Scientist form here or in our footer. Hope you enjoy the series!
Above photo by Lauren Shipp