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Unveiling the Human Faces of Science: Stories Behind the Lab Coats

Saša Novak, Science on the Street

“Start writing a blog,” is written on the last page of the book that has been keeping me company in recent days and, I admit, sometimes raising my blood pressure a bit. To avoid any misunderstanding – with the awareness of how incredibly and uncritically susceptible the human mind is to everything promising a better, healthier, and longer life. “There’s no profit in this,” says the author of the book, Ben Goldacre, “but you knew that when you embarked on this (scientific) path. You will do this because you know that knowledge is something beautiful…”

Yes, indeed! Science is actually quite fascinating, and the work of a scientist can be quite exciting (at least if we overlook preparing grant applications, reports, and heaps of administrative work). You could say that stories are being created, or even that we are creating stories, but they are ultimately recorded or told in a more telegraphic style (today, this is probably called a Twitter style) in scientific articles, project reports, and professional meetings. And again – to avoid any misunderstanding, this is exactly the work of a scientist: to thoroughly investigate, accurately describe the methods used, and succinctly interpret the results obtained. Scientific publication is therefore the final phase of research. Reading an article is a bit like watching the last ten minutes of a movie, where we find out who the thief was. The readers have now clue about the drama behind. No clue about the people who created all this new knowledge. And in fact, there is no need for that in scientific literature. But it is something that makes science human, that makes science interesting for broad society being involved in science only through paying taxes.

I can imagine how the work of a dentist, teacher, or salesperson goes. Of course, as a material scientist I also have no trouble imagining scientific research conducted by another material scientist. But I hardly imagine the everyday work of a biologist or particle physicist.  How about you? Would you be interested in stories about researching the organ on a chip, an “obesity gene,” materials that withstand 1400 °C, the preparation and analysis of nanoparticles?  What does a microbiologist think when they ride their bike to their laboratory in the morning (if we overlook their very likely grumbling about interrupted bike paths or cars parked on them), and what does a nuclear physicist do when conducting research? These are fragments from the lives of completely ordinary people who have dedicated themselves to science.

If you are one of those scientists, try yourself in writing blogs. Share your thoughts with those who are interested in science and don’t read your scientific articles (you know why ????). Please, contribute for science to be better appreciated and understood.