Monday, June 1, 2009

TV Science is Not Real Science

(Click here for full strip) Credit: PhD comics

I don't watch a lot of popular shows, but after some prodding by a colleague here at New Voices, I watched an episode of House. I know it's TV. I know the show is only an hour long and I know they have to take some artistic liberties, but two things bothered me:
1. The smart guy in the show was neurotic, anti-social, white and male (which does nothing to stop the already popular misconception that scientists are largely Caucasian males who are weird and socially awkward creatures).
2. The time line for solving the medical mystery was completely unrealistic, since right now, the time line for going from basic research breakthroughs to applied therapies/pills is about 10-15 years.
It made me think,
"No wonder people are mad that we still don't have a cure for cancer or whatever other disease. If people think that breakthroughs in medicine and science can be achieved just like that - hey presto- then we are in real trouble."
In some ways I am happy that TV and mass media is showing images of scientists- at least we have a presence out there. But, it would be nice for people to know how real scientists operate in the real world.

I wish there was a reality show that followed grad-students and post-docs around to show people what really happens. The slow grind of grant proposals, experiments (most of them failing, or worse, a positive result that can't be reproduced), Internal Review Boards (IRBs), manuscript submissions, the review process etc. And then , if you are lucky enough to be in translational medicine or manage to collaborate with folks over in clinical/translational medicine, maybe the product goes into clinical trials, FDA approval, marketing....

What do you think? Would you watch a show like that?

Related resources:

1 comment:

  1. WOW someone does understand! You know I did see a listing for a documentary a few months ago that did exactly that. not sure that I think it would be a smash hit, but I'm just geeked enough to think it was cool.