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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health - a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM - that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
The former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences contrasts how scientists perceive evidence (versus the lay public) and provides some solutions to improve science education in an editorial recently published in Science.
Bruce Alberts Ph.D., University of California-San Francisco, writes (and we quote): 'Research suggests that a great many people assess evidence not as scientists are trained to do, but rather in an emotion-biased manner that is strongly influenced by the beliefs of their cultural cohort' (end of quote). Alberts, who is the former editor of Science, continues (and we quote): 'The increasing dominance of social media reinforces this natural human tendency' (end of quote).
In contrast, Alberts explains (and we quote): 'science is not a belief system, it is, instead, a very special way of learning about the true nature of the observable world' (end of quote). Alberts emphasizes (and we quote): 'science is an amazing human invention — a huge community effort to discover truth through repeated cycles of testing and self-correction' (end of quote).
While Alberts acknowledges scientists are sometimes shocked by the degree that the public ignores scientific evidence regarding policy issues, such as the industrial roots of global warming, he notes public understanding initially might be improved by revamping the introductory science courses taken by non-science majors in universities throughout the U.S. (and around the world).
For example, Alberts explains science courses often are taught (and we quote): "with little or no effort spent on conveying the nature of the scientific process' (end of quote).
Alberts strongly suggests the latter exclusion (and its correction) represent foundational steps to help more young adults appreciate the contrast between how scientists and non-scientists approach problems and suggest solutions.
Instead of cramming scientific facts into university science courses, Alberts suggests (and we quote): 'learning how to think like a scientist — with an insistence on using evidence and logic for decision-making — should become the central goal of all science educators' (end of quote).
Fortunately, Alberts explains there is a growing collection of annotated scientific research articles that help young adults understand the processes used to gather evidence and provide inferences. Alberts notes the collection, called Science in the Classroom, is a free resource that helps persons understand scientific processes and reasoning and (and we quote): 'thereby learn how science actually works' (end of quote).
Alberts adds the growing collection now covers many of the disciplines in undergraduate introductory science courses. He encourages readers to check out the service, which is available gratis by typing 'science in the classroom' in any web browser.
Overall, we commend Alberts' innovative course corrections that are intended to help a new generation of Americans better understand science.
Similarly, MedlinePlus.gov's 'understanding medical research' health topic page provides an everyday gateway to improve lay insights regarding biomedical research.
For example, the Lewy Body Dementia Association provides a website about how to read a research paper within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's understanding medical research health topic page. Many of the skills provided within this website are akin to the ideas found in the aforementioned Science in the Classroom — except the MedlinePlus website focuses on medical research.
The National Human Genome Research Institute explains more about the foundations of clinical research also within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's understanding medical research health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov's understanding medical research health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. You can sign up to receive updates about understanding medical research as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's understanding medical research health topic page, please type 'understanding medical research' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'understanding medical research (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus also has a health topic page devoted to evaluating health information.
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