As epidemiologists we constantly think about indicators and metrics. Given the well-known limitations of simplifying complex dependencies to one-dimensional indicators, isn’t it surprising that many academics have bought into the practice of measuring the quality and impact of their work by a handful of metrics? While books have been written about the need for more and better indicators of impact and excellence in academia, surprisingly little attention is given to the challenge and value of being engaged and excelling in non-academic activities. Some ideas around this are presented in this editorial.
While we all believe in ‘inter-disciplinary research’, the reality often falls short of the intention. How then can we begin to learn each others languages, hear what others are saying, use our joint knowledge and understanding to throw light on important problems, and hopefully make the world a slightly better place?
In the September 2015 SACEMA Quarterly, we published an editorial on the importance of interactive storytelling in epidemiology as well as a short on narratives and paradigms. When we came across a review of the book Houston, We Have a Narrative by Randy Olson, we thought that this would be interesting to share with you as well. The reviewer Rafael E. Luna is the author of The Art of Scientific Storytelling: Transform Your Research Manuscript with a Step-By-Step Formula.
The relationship between narrative and paradigmatic thinking in science, at least in the world of natural philosophy and natural history, is crucial and yet seldom explicitly stated and rarely understood. Creativity in science lies primarily in the narrative mode of thinking and it is here that new discoveries are made and new ideas are found. While we should find ways to develop narrative thinking when teaching science we must also ensure that our students develop the necessary skills to manipulate the paradigmatic formulations of their theories.
Scientists offering papers for publication will be becoming increasingly aware of a significant change in the attitude of journals to the publication of the data used to reach conclusions drawn in their manuscript. New regulations are moving rapidly and uncompromisingly towards a policy where all of the data, and related metadata, required to replicate the reported findings must be made freely available to the world at large. There is much to be said in favour of this argument, but one wonders whether journals have thought through some of the ramifications of the new policy.
King James VI of Scotland, I of England, (1567−1625) commissioned the most influential book ever to be written in English. While the language of the King James Bible has done much to define modern English, it can be argued that the Bible also developed, for the first time, the notion of peer-review which is at the very heart of modern science. And one may argue further that the way in which he organized the writing of the new Bible holds lessons for how we should organize our scientific lives today.