Scientific Evidence

Here’s an educational piece I had published on “scientific evidence” – that infamous term that so many politicians and corporations throw about, but so few actually explain to their audience! If someone tells us they have scientific evidence to back up their new product or proposed political decision, how can we trust the evidence they are referring to?

This piece aims to give a brief background on how research works, for those who aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of the industry. It also presents some questions to think about that may be of help to those wanting to check the facts themselves.

© Manu Saunders 2013

16 thoughts on “Scientific Evidence

  1. Anthony Overs July 3, 2013 / 10:02 AM

    Great article. well done on getting in on The Conversation!


  2. argylesock July 3, 2013 / 7:26 PM

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Here’s a clear, readable article about how good science is done. Another way to say it is a phrase I invented during my PhD. ‘Science is like digging with a teaspoon.’ It’s not for everybody but those of us who do it have responsibilities. One of our responsibilities is to tell normal people what we’ve learned about the world. My blog here is my way of doing that. I write popsci here and hope you like it.


  3. argylesock July 3, 2013 / 7:31 PM

    I’ve just reblogged this excellent post. You’re younger than I am, iirc, and what you’re doing gives me hope for the future. We need good thinkers and communicators like you.

    Hope you don’t mind a small criticism: scientists never prove anything. We disprove hypotheses.

    What do you think of ‘crowd-sourced’ science? I think that means using social media for scientific debate.


    • manuelinor July 3, 2013 / 8:42 PM

      Thank you for the compliment! And thanks for the comment on disproving hypotheses. Reading over the article again, I’ve found a couple of things I wish I’d worded differently – but that’s the thing with writing, a piece is never truly finished!

      I’m not really familiar with crowd-sourcing science – I know it’s becoming a popular way to get the general public interested in important issues and also to get research funds, but I also think there’s a lot of potential for issues with such a system that could arise in the future. So I’m interested to see how it develops.


      • argylesock July 3, 2013 / 9:50 PM

        Yes indeed. I’d like to write a blog post about it, but just now, I feel quite ignorant on the topic. Crowdfunding likewise.


  4. Erik Andrulis July 4, 2013 / 1:55 AM

    I was blogging about this exact issue just the other day ago in relation to a recent article by Paul Nurse at the Guardian. Alas, “scientific evidence” is limited in scope, rife with misinterpretation, and always, always the subject of debate. Science, thus, will never “prove,” like argylesock wrote above. Being a scientist myself, and seeing this, I got into theory.

    Congrats on getting published in The Conversation (4th time, not too shabby!)


    • manuelinor July 4, 2013 / 6:15 AM

      Thanks Erik. I completely agree that the ‘scientific method’ can never truly ‘prove’…but I’m not sure if anyone’s figured out how to explain that in a way that wouldn’t get the ‘deniers’ rubbing their hands with glee! 🙂


  5. Rachel July 9, 2013 / 3:25 AM

    ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!’

    This is what I am fond of saying when surveying – especially after I found a female great crested newt in a small lake in the middle of a intensively cattle-grazed field with no suitable habitat surrounding, and the water edges poached with little vegetation and constantly disturbed by cattle deciding to go paddling.

    I am always a bit cynical about such things as you discuss in your piece anyway… ESPECIALLY journalists who say ‘scientific evidence’. (They probably wouldn’t know scientific evidence if it danced in front of them naked, but then it is articles like in newspapers that create a general public who is ignorant of the real situation, and think they are informed of the facts, when in reality, they are not).


    • manuelinor July 13, 2013 / 3:28 PM

      Thanks Rachel! Sorry it took so long for your comment to go up – it ended up in my spam box for some reason!
      It’s true, your newt story shows how complex science and nature are, despite us trying to make ‘certainty’ statements about everything. Unfortunately, very few journos are trained in, or understand, this aspect of science/nature…which I think is very dangerous, as their role has an inherent responsibility to inform their audience of the ‘truth’. But that’s a whole other discussion which I have posted about before…the whole Society-Media ‘chicken-and-egg’ loop is mildly headache-inducing!! 🙂


  6. Tony August 13, 2013 / 6:02 PM

    Now following your blog as I aim to further my knowledge on ecological processes and suchlike.


    • manuelinor August 13, 2013 / 6:41 PM

      Thanks Tony! Check out some of the links on my blogroll as well 🙂


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