Science sans conscience est la ruine de l’âme. ” – François Rabelais
No scientist is immune to the immense pressures of the career. In an era when so many labs (in Canada and abroad) are hard-pressed for funds, and the value and success of work is measured by how often and how high one publishes, the temptation to publish premature, overstated or irreproducible data can be tantalizing. By its very nature, science builds upon previous findings, so anytime scientific integrity is compromised and less than rigorous work is brought to light, the entire community risks taking erroneous paths that come at a financial, professional and broader communal detriment. In addition to the damage on the academic community, arguably the most serious consequences of fraudulent or poorly conducted work affect the public at-large who not only fund the work but depend on the research output for further progression and innovation in society.
As our scientific work becomes increasingly more complex, it is imperative that we become better communicators to the public – not only of what we do, but how we do it. Mistrust of the “elite” and the “educated” is pervasive and reinforced by certain lawmakers, and that already tenuous relationship can only be exacerbated if there is heightened suspicion of scientific integrity. As the US experiences its worst measles outbreak in 30 years, it pains us to remember that the anti-vaccine movement traces its roots to Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s discredited publication suggesting a link between vaccines and autism. Although the checks and balances of the scientific system eventually worked and the paper was exposed as fraudulent, the reputation of the scientific community and the devastating effects of vaccination refusal have been a steep price to pay for one case of academic misconduct.
In this issue of IMMpress, we tackle ethics in science. We explore the importance of scientific advocacy both in our roles as scientists (pg. 18) and as politically active members of society (pg. 20). Next, we examine a controversial facet of scientific research – namely the issue of exploitation, from the use of patient samples (pg. 24) to establishment of clinical trials in resource-poor nations (pg. 12). Additionally, we assess the over-regulation of scientific research and the risk it poses to scientific independence and academic freedom, a legislative overreach that has prompted scientists to seek refuge in the idyllic islands of French Polynesia (pg. 8). Furthermore, a closer look at the patent system reveals some pitfalls in the current way that we incentivize and reward discovery (pg. 15). At the bench, we explore the intersection of hypothesis- and data-driven research (pg. 10), introduce artificial intelligence as a standardization for data analysis (pg. 11), and share a personal reflection on the use of animal models in research (pg. 26).
As usual, we would like to acknowledge our dedicated team of writers, editors and designers without whom this magazine would not be possible. Since this is the last IMMpress issue for 2017, we would like to wish our readership a joyous holiday season ahead and a wonderful start to the new year. Here’s to 2018 and all the promise and excitement that lies ahead!