Do you love your hypothesis? Is that good for science?

26 Mar

So a pretty cool meeting just happened in Durham, North Carolina. The meeting is called Reporting Across Culture Wars. While the name of the meeting is a little bit scary, it was actually where many journalists and scientists in evolutionary biology meet up together to talk about how to better help each other out in communicating science (particularly evolution) to the general public . This is really exciting to see – having come from a research background and now working as a communications person, I can see how easy it is for the two sides to simply misunderstand each other. “Reaching the public” means very different timelines and objectives for scientists and journalists. And the only way to move forward is really to work together.

(oh, and I found out about this meeting through twitter – because suddenly half of the people I follow started using the hashtag #evocomm!)

So while I was following things along on twitter, one particular conversation caught my attention and I storified the conversation (See it in Storify directly instead).

Is loving your hypothesis good for science- (with tweets) · theresaliao · Storify

So I went back to thinking about myself when I was doing research in graduate school, studying cells with the potential to grow to become insulin-secreting. Did I love my hypothesis? I think I really liked it, because if it were proven to be true based on experimental data, it would mean that we would be able to generate a large number of these cells and use them in transplantation. At the same time, I was extremely cautious of my own bias, trying not to fall too hard in love with it –  just in case it didn’t work out.

But, we are all human and bound to have our own bias. Chance is that even without loving the hypotheses, something else might influence us and create the bias. That is why even if experiments work out for scientists and are shown to have expected outcomes, such results are shared through scientific publications so that others can attempt to reproduce the results, or come up with other ways to verify the results. It is by this process that we can try to eliminate our personal bias and make sure that the results we see are indeed the product of objective experimentation.

A lot more other interesting discussions about science, evolution, and the communication of science, happened during the meeting. If you are interested in hearing more about the meeting, checked out its story on Storify, put together by Brian Swite.

Postscript: I originally wrote “That is why even if experiments work out for scientists and that hypotheses are shown to be true based on experimental results, such results are shared through scientific publications so that others can attempt to reproduce the results, or come up with other ways to verify the results.” But I struggled with using the word “true” personally for hypotheses. Artem made a suggestion in his comment below. Per Artem’s suggestion I have updated the line to better reflect what I intended it to mean.

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2 Responses to “Do you love your hypothesis? Is that good for science?”

  1. Artem Kaznatcheev March 28, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    if [my hypotheses] were proven to be true based on experimental data

    This always concerns me. I don’t think something can be called a hypothesis if it can be “proven true”. It should be called a conjecture (if it can be derived directly from your underlying theory) or a test/measurement/observation/experiment where you just happen to have a preferred outcome. A hypothesis, much like a theory, can never be proven true, only not-falsified.

    • Terrific T March 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

      I actually had difficulty coming up with the right word/line when I wrote that. Experiments having preferred, or expected outcomes are actually much better (I don’t like preferred because it seems to emphasizes on personal preference). Updating it on the post 🙂

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