Archive for the ‘Medical research’ Category

Science and culture – a symbiotic organism

April 21, 2013
Martian canals

Canals on Mars?

My job is all about ‘selling’ science – making it sound exciting, interesting and inspiring. Often this isn’t hard, because a lot of science is (I think) self-evidently amazing. The raw material doesn’t usually need a lot of polishing.

But writing about the process of science is harder. It involves a lot words like ‘trying’, ‘hoping’, ‘investigating’, ‘if’ and ‘but’. It sounds alarmingly human and error-prone, not at all like the shining quest for truth that science is ‘meant’ to be. (more…)

The risk of accuracy

February 6, 2013
Percentage symbol

Watch those percentages… (image by NavBack)

I love reading about risk. As someone who finds maths a bit of a challenge, it always becomes more real to me when the numbers relate to the real world. Using numbers to explain the risk of something happening seems like an excellent way to harness the power of maths – numbers are objective, concrete, and not vague.

But as always in the messy real world, it’s not quite that simple. That’s why I was really inspired by this blog post from the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan, explaining how extra levels of ‘accuracy’ – more numbers – can actually make risks harder to understand. (more…)

Animal research on BBC Radio 5 Live

December 4, 2012
Mice at a research facility

Mice at a research facility (credit: UAR)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found out BBC Radio 5 Live were doing a 2-hour programme from an animal research facility in Oxford – they love a bit of controversy. I certainly didn’t think they’d feature a mouse being humanely killed live on air. Presenter Victoria Derbyshire got some great interviews with researchers and lab technicians, but some tired old cliches lived on, courtesy of Animal Aid. (more…)

Dave the Worm – getting creative with basic research

November 22, 2012

C. elegans – a worm like Dave

Have you met Dave the Worm? He’s the star of Parkinson’s UK‘s latest fundraising campaign, and I LOVE him. He’s cute and funny, but he also comes with a serious message about so-called ‘basic’ medical research and why it’s so important.

It’s quite hard to make basic research sound sexy, and even harder to be open and honest about animal research – but little Dave manages to do both. He’s a nematode worm – C. elegans to be precise – and researchers are using worms like him to understand more about Parkinson’s disease. (more…)