It is sad to think of a time when science is no longer believable. As veterinarians we have been well indoctrinated in the value and importance of science. Science focuses on advancing knowledge to make this world a better place. We pride ourselves as a profession and industry that makes decisions based on science. Lifelong learning is part of our culture. Unfortunately, I believe we are approaching a time when too often science no longer plays a role in major decision making.
I am definitely an optimist. I believe most people are good and try to do the right thing. My concern is that the media (regular media as well as social media) are moving away from what I call “true science” and focusing mostly on public perception or “impact,” such as number of times something has been viewed, likes, re-tweets, etc. These media are just a reflection of our population worldwide. For many, science today is only believable if it supports a particular viewpoint or bias. Unfortunately, with the existence of the Internet, we can find “science” to support just about any perspective we want. This is being complicated, and I may say threatened, by the large number of “open source” journals that are becoming available for publication. Every week I get e-mails from three to five new journals seeking articles for publication with a promise of quick “peer review” and publication. Many of these journals are predatory journals, meaning they are focused less on content and the peer review process and more on simply collecting fees for publication. What data or results should we trust? Unfortunately, for most of our consumers who are not scientists, their approach is simply to believe “published data” that support their agenda and discredit everything else, regardless of the source. That is a new reality and challenge for us. We are fortunate and grateful, though, for our great JSHAP journal.
Company chief executive officers (CEOs) and many government entities are focusing less and less on science and more and more on keeping their “consumer” happy. Decisions are being made on summary statements, and no one is looking back to verify the context or validity of such statements. Even less often are individuals actually taking the time to evaluate the science and rigor of these publications. As true scientists, we must be open minded. We most certainly need to be skeptical, but on the same hand be open minded and fair in making judgements. Both of these points are critical. Regrettably, too often I see the public and sometimes academics and colleagues hold different standards for different data. No study is perfect. There are always things that could be improved. The real question is whether our concerns or objections on the research are truly justified or whether we are manipulating “standards” to fit our agenda.
As we focus on science to continue improving the health and wellbeing of the pigs we help care for, the real questions will be 1) Are we being fair in using science in decision making? and 2) Will our government officials, company executives, and consumers continue to trust good science?
Alex Ramirez, DVM