By Ben Yudkin
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Additional resources for Critical Reading: Making Sense of Papers in Life Sciences and Medicine (Routledge Study Guides)
C. (1953) ‘Mechanism of phosphorylation in the respiratory chain’, Nature 172: 975–8. —— (2003) ‘Metabolic gardening’, Nature 422: 816–17. A. J. (1970) ‘High-energy forms of cytochrome b’, Nature 226: 1248–9. 4 The Abstract and Introduction As the manuscript slid out of its brown envelope, Professor Stickler sighed. It was that MacHine fellow again. To be sure, his ideas were interesting enough; it was just that he had no idea how to do an experiment or how to write it up. It was not Professor Stickler’s day.
Some of them may be inclined to forego a certain amount of critical evaluation where it will hold up publication of an article and allow a competitor to publish ﬁrst. The outcome may be the opposite of the phenomenon described above, where researchers dismiss a genuine observation as a mistake. Here, they may be so elated to have ‘discovered’ something that they publish artefactual ﬁndings as real results. Truth is important, but personal achievement is also a great motivator. Ambitious people may tend to exaggerate the signiﬁcance of their work I do not suggest that any but a small minority of scientists value achievement above truth; merely that understandable pressures, such as the wish to make a useful contribution to science or medicine, or the desire for recognition, inevitably interpose a subjective step in the transfer of absolute truth – if there is such a thing – to the printed page.
With published material in front of us, we can dissect and analyse what scientists have said and reach conclusions about the suitability of their methods, the reliability of their results and the plausibility of their interpretations. Much of the time, readers can admire the care with which the experiment has been carried out and reported. Some of the time, we may conclude that it is too early to make a deﬁnite statement and that further work is required. On occasion we might spot ﬂaws, ambiguities or omissions.