Talking Dogs, Analysis and Research

May 01 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

mmm.. no.

Of course, if you are using analysis in its generic, non-research meaning, maybe. Analysis is anything that you look at and think about and figure out its constituent parts. Or according to various online dictionaries:

A detailed examination or study of something so as to determine its nature, structure, or essential features. Also: the result of this process; a detailed examination or report; a particular interpretation or formulation of the essential features of something. OED

So, are we analyzing dogs? Or looking at your dog? Do we mean scientific analysis here? In which case, no. Do we mean scientific research? no. I originally replied that its a matter of how one frames ones hypothesis. "Can dogs talk?". Then yes, one talking dog proves the case. But does this constitute scientific research?

This is an argument I've had with some of the more thick-minded clinical colleagues at the thick-minded clinical meetings I regularly attend (because NIH). A case study is not research. It is a case study. It may be interesting. It may be critical for hypothesis generation. For exploration of ideas. Even for preliminary data for grant writing.

I've pontificated on this before, from the point of view of what is the worth of clinical research. It is important when we consider why we work with animal models. Obviously this is something I care about.

Being a scientist is not putting on a lab coat (and shaving your head, bleaching your skin and adding wrinkles via rubber cement to look the part). Nor is it making pithy observations about linguistic abilities of dogs. The 18 and 19th century naturalists who made observations are often called "scientists" and I suppose that one can call anyone anything, including one's dog cunning.

But scientific research is not a series of case studies. Analysis is not just presenting facts. And NIH wants you to consider mechanisms not just fishing expeditions.

11 responses so far

  • Dr24hours says:

    Making systematic observations is science. Even if you don't do any stats with them. Making a reference book of anatomical drawings is science. Declaring that "science" requires stats is elitist and absurd.

    • potnia theron says:

      nope. anatomical drawings are not science. And I have never said (directly or implicitly) that stats are required.

      • dr24hours says:

        Your whole piece is predicated upon disputing my statement that "Not every analysis requires statistical inference". So you're either stating that stats are required, or just incoherent.

        As for anatomical drawings not being science, well, I'm gonna go ahead and stand by my "elitist and absurd" description then.

    • potnia theron says:

      I didn't say it needed stats, and an observation by itself is not science. SYSTEMATIC observations are not a single observation. The implications of the word systematic is well beyond one talking talk.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    The Case Report is certainly science.

  • Pascale says:

    This is why med schools have started calling it "scholarship" instead of "research" in P&T documents. A case report can have huge implications; so-called "experiments of nature" can provide the intellectual link between involvement of different systems in disease, sometimes inspiring new lines of inquiry. Unless reported, we will never know.
    Is a case report "science?" Who cares? It usually requires a systemic review of the literature to put the case and its importance into perspective. It is clearly scholarship. I would argue that there is a scientific component to a peer-reviewed case report.
    But then I'm an MD.

  • E rook says:

    I think case reports and single observations are important if something was previously thought to be impossible. I think it counts as science, as long as the evidence for the thing, phenomenon, observation, is vetted, objective (or at least arranged according to an external standard), and available for analysis by the proper community (if not everyone).

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