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Episode 16 — The Challenge of Differentiating Between Science & Scientific Opinion

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About this episode

Have you found yourself called on to be an expert because you are a scientist? The problem is many who seek your expertise don’t always realize where your expertise actually lies. How should you face presenting what you know for certain, what you know with some margin of error, and what you don’t actually know? This episode will delve into how to differentiate between and operate on both the facts and informed opinions.

Hosted by Dr. Nick Oswald featuring Kenneth Vogt of Vera Claritas.

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This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:09):
This is The Happy Scientist podcast. Each episode is designed to make you more focused, more productive, and more satisfied in the lab. You can find us online at bitesizebio.com/happyscientist. Your hosts are Kenneth Vogt, founder of the executive coaching from Vera Claritas and Dr. Nick Oswald, PhD by a scientist and founder of Bitesize Bio.

Nick Oswald (00:40):
Hello and welcome to the happy scientist podcast from Bitesize Bio. If you want to become a happier, healthier, and more productive scientist, you are in the right place. I’m Nick Oswald the founder of Bitesizebio.com. And with me, it’s the driving force of this podcast, mr. Kenneth Vogt. I’ve worked with Kenneth for over seven years now with him as my business mentor and colleague. And I knew that his expertise could help a lot of researchers, which is why we’re both here today, doing this podcast for you in these sessions, we’ll hear mostly from Ken on principles that will help shape you for a happier and more successful career along the way. I’ll pitch in with points from my personal experience as a scientist, and from working with Ken today, we will be talking about the challenge in differentiating between science and scientific opinion. A topic that I think is very important.

Nick Oswald (01:32):
If you find this useful, this episode useful, you might want to go back and look at episodes. One to nine of the podcast, in which we talk about the foundational principles of human needs, core mindsets and charisma factors, which we’ll be referring to invest and all future episodes. So let’s go and bring in the man himself. Kenneth, how are you today?

Kenneth Vogt (01:53):
Doing great, Nick, how are you? You know, it’s, it’s interesting. This topic came up because Nick and I were just having a conversation and the more he kept riffing on this topic, the more I thought everybody needs to hear this. We need to be having this discussion in public. And it’s an interesting problem that is being faced, especially in the current crisis situations, people look to you as a scientist. You’re like, surely you have the answers and you want to have the answers, but often what you’re, what you have to offer. Isn’t, you know, two plus two equals four, a hard fact, it’s, it’s an educated opinion and a scientific opinion, but it’s still an opinion and it’s still, it’s still a work in progress. So we’re going to talk about that today. We’re going to talk about how that may put you under a certain kind of pressure, how you can get out from under that pressure, how you can make sure that, that you’re putting the best science out into the world without steering people wrong and how you can keep people open to hearing the evolution of knowledge as it comes along. Because as we’ve we’ve seen during this, this Covid thing, there there’s so much that that is, that is we’re learning day after day. So every day we have to look at it and say, Hey, do we still believe the same things we believed yesterday? Because sometimes the answer is no, and you want to, and you want to get that clear. And it’s really easy for people to say, well, first you said this, and then you said that, and you’re just flip flopping all over the place. And, and how can we trust you? Well, I wanna, I want to dig into how to make sure that you can be trustworthy and people will perceive you as trustworthy, even though you are sometimes changing your position on things because the facts require it. So first I’d like to ask a specific question of you, Nick, how would you differentiate between science and scientific opinion?

Nick Oswald (04:06):
Okay. So the way that I see it, and again, this is, this is a, just an epiphany of mine. It kind of may or may not apply to people. It depends on how you see things. For me, I see that this kind of relates to the question that we talked about, and I think it was the last episode. Were we were talking about asking questions rather than going for results. So the natural human tendency is to go for, so, you know, go for solid facts, look for solid ground. So as, as a scientist, it’s really easy to get pathed into going after results. And instead of just doing your job, which is asking questions, and it’s the same here, we’re looking for solidity, if that’s a word where it doesn’t doesn’t exist. So what science is, is, you know, if you, if you go right back to the beginning, you’ve got a world, a universe in front of you, and it’s about exploring that universe, that world by asking questions.

Nick Oswald (05:10):
And then when you get an answer to a question, it doesn’t tell you the answer, what it does is it get shows you where the next question is, and as soon as you assume that as soon as soon as you, you think, you know what, you know, the first question, the first answer gives you, as soon as you think that that, that is then the truth, then you may as well either stop doing more science or you, you, you, at the very least, you kind of, you path yourself, you start pathing yourself, expecting an answer, and then we’re back to expecting a result and looking for results. And so this, this, this whole thing about being a scientist, your job is to ask questions. It also means that being a scientist, you accept the fact that where we are now is not the absolute truth.

Nick Oswald (05:55):
It’s always the science is an evolution. As, as you mentioned, earlier Ken, it just keeps trucking along. There are lots of scientists in any given, given field who are coming up with different answers to different questions they’ve asked, And the truth is a kind of nebulous thing, that nebulous kind of frontier that just moves forward all the time. Question after question after question after question, and that’s the way i would see it, rather than answer after answer after answer, that’s not giving you the, the solidity you want, because any of those answers could actually be wrong. And you have to be, you have to be open to asking another question to verify that that answer, and you also have to be open to the fact that it might not be correct. And then you might have to change course or change your opinion. And so when someone talks about a site, when some, someone talks about scientific opinion, that is at a point in time, a scientist with a specific perspective, that is that they are, they have expertise in a given area that read these papers.

Nick Oswald (07:04):
They read, they have X, Y, Z, personal biases and so on, and this is their opinion on what the answer to the next question will be. And that, that is a useful thing to know, because they’re the ones that are most likely to be able to look over the edge and say well, it’s most likely to be that, but it doesn’t mean it’s the truth. It means it’s, it’s an opinion, a perspective based opinion. And that’s why when you ask us, when you ask, when you look at scientific opinion, there is no matter what the topic there is always a spectrum. And each, each part of that spectrum of opinion is important because they all represent a possible, the possible next generation of evolution. And there are, there are lots of examples of where science has been pathed and and then realized we’ve gone down the wrong path, you know, and, and it can be because people have been stuck on that. You know, the, they anticipate, they thought they were standing in truth when they weren’t, then it’s a painful scenario and expensive sometimes to go in the other direction.

Kenneth Vogt (08:17):
So you bring up something interesting. There, there are times when you can state with certainty, that something is true. And then there, and then there are other times where you can’t say it with certainty, but you can say it with probability. And then there are the times when we don’t really don’t know, but my educated guess is this. So how do we differentiate then? How do we, how do we make sure we’re getting clear to people that look, I’m saying two plus two equals four. That’s not going to change. That’s how it is. I’m I’m saying, this is what I know, because this is an area of expertise for me. And this is, this is what I know or I’m saying it would, based on what’s happened so far, but I think it’s going to happen next is this, but we still have to find out and you know, how do we, how do we go about getting that across in that way? Making sure we’re understood is the, is the question. And I, I could put that to you, Nick. I don’t know if it’s a fair thing to ask you, but if you have an answer I’m, I’m willing to hear it.

Nick Oswald (09:22):
Yeah. Okay. I’ll try my best. It’s not an easy question to answer, but I would just say in terms of the general sort of stuff we’re talking about here in this podcast is how can you sit in peace as a scientist? How can you operate from a pristine position so that you’re not being dragged down the, you know, dragged down the pathways that human nature tends to want to drag a scientist. And so the question here then is when you are asked for asked for a scientific opinion, or even when you listen to a scientific opinion, you know, I think what you framed out there, it was really good there that there are, there are different levels of opinion. You know, some, some things are just hard fact, two plus two equals four, but I would argue that no matter how unlikely you think it is that two plus two, won’t equal four, you’ve got to maintain a small degree of doubt that that is the truth, right?

Nick Oswald (10:19):
Regardless of how much of it as a science, you’ve just always got to be, have that little bit of flexibility to be, and that’s an extreme obviously, but it should, there are things that, that will feel to you. Like it’s two plus two equals four. When it isn’t, that’s just ended up being an illusion and unless you’re flexible, then it won’t be, you won’t be able to will be more difficult for you to see it right through to, you know, the, well, this is my opinion. And you know, my considered opinion and it’s not necessarily truth. It’s just one of the possible interpretations. I think that all of those are absolutely valid. Of course they are. And they all have you know, giving your opinion is is an important thing. You know, that could be a relative asking you something.

Nick Oswald (11:08):
And you have as with someone with a scientific training, you have a different level of perspective that they don’t have. And so your, your perspective counts, even though it’s not necessarily true, it’s still just a perspective. And I think that the key is having some humility and some kind of self discipline and, and keeping yourself aware that you don’t know well, not that you don’t know that what you’re saying, what you’re saying might not be true and, and try and get a gauge. It doesn’t in a, in a way it doesn’t actually matter how, or does it, yeah, that’s an interesting one.

Kenneth Vogt (11:49):
Well, I will, I will, I will take that question on there for you, this becomes a matter of communication and making sure that you’re understood, and I will, we’ll definitely be talking about communication in other episodes, but just as a, just a quick little thing to add into this, you got to differentiate between what I’ve said and what they heard, and then what they understood. You know, you first, you have a thought in mind and then you say something and then they hear something. And then they translate that in their head, you know, based on whatever else they know or, and they get somewhere and you, as the communicator have to take responsibility for that final step, which is tough because it’s two steps away from you. You know, it wasn’t even, it’s not just what they heard. Cause you can say, well, I said it right?

Kenneth Vogt (12:41):
Yes. But you can tell when somebody is not receiving what you’re saying and you got to keep making the effort to make it known. And you commented on something earlier too. And, and this is just a way that we communicate the things that are not certain that, that our, our opinion or our, you know, have a certain amount of probability. We have to speak in such a way where we’re saying, well, in my opinion, or it seems to me, or it seems likely that we’ve got, we’ve got to couch it in some, some way that somebody can realize how, how hard does this, this fact look, and, and to that, to the scientists, are they saying, this is absolutely certain, or are they saying, this is a probability? Are they saying, it’s only a possibility, you know, what are they saying? And we got to take responsibility for them hearing it properly.

Nick Oswald (13:38):
And yeah, I think Ken, if you take right back to you know, to, to basic principles and actually what this podcast is about, which is being a happier and more relaxed, more productive scientist, I think it’s worth noting that what this, one of the, one of the things that looking at the difference between scientific opinion and what science actually says is that it’s, it’s quite freeing for you as a scientist. I think as a scientist, as scientists, we’re under pressure in some ways, either from ourselves or from people around us or, or whatever it is, but we’re under pressure to, to know what the facts are. We feel I’ve certainly felt that I’m under pressure to know what the truth is. And I can never have that. All I can have is my scientific opinion, my own scientific opinion, based on my, what I’ve read, what I’ve looked up, what my expertise is, what my personal biases are, what my personal blind spots are. That’s going to be the same for all of us. And so it’s a bit like that question of stepping back from getting results and just ask them questions.

Kenneth Vogt (14:48):
Yeah.

Nick Oswald (14:48):
The idea that you can step back and say, okay, what I’m saying is not necessarily fact, it’s my best, best guess my it’s better than a guess iss my best opinion based on what I know and what I feel here. So,

Kenneth Vogt (15:04):
Right.

Kenneth Vogt (15:07):
I it’s, I’m reminded of something that, that Dr Anthony Fauci said somewhere a couple of months ago where he said, I’m an epidemiologist. I’m not a politician. I’m not saying what’s the right thing to do from a governmental standpoint, I’m saying as an epidemiologist, this is my opinion. And, you know, at that level, obviously we expect the highest level of, of data out of somebody at that, that pinnacle. And yet he was saying, I can’t give you the final answer because that’s not, not even my job. So it’s important that, that we recognize that when we’re talking to that, what we’re saying about something is, you know, we’re, we’re offering a perspective.

Nick Oswald (15:53):
Yeah. And, and the important thing, again, from the context of this, this podcast, is that what this is all about is allowing you to sit back and take the pressure off yourself. You know, the negative pressure, the unhelpful pressure off you though, you know, you need some pressure to the unhelpful pressure off yourself and just be a scientist. What does that mean as a scientist? You’re a person who asks questions and when required gives their opinion, based on what they know, it’s not a question whose job that’s completely different from someone whose job is to get results and should know the truth as if you see something and it’s wrong, then that’s a really bad thing. It’s not in fact, what would be, you know, the, the worst position to take would be to somewhere, if you believe what you said was correct. And to such an extent that you were inflexible when you were presented with other data that, that that suggested that, that your answer was incorrect and there was another truth.

Kenneth Vogt (16:56):
So there’s a couple of scenarios I can, I can imagine that a scientist might find themselves in that would give them either the opportunity for satisfaction or stress and listen to these scenarios. And then we’ll talk about them individually. But anybody who’s listening, you can figure out which of these are you and you, maybe they all apply to you at certain times. So for instance, one scenario would be, I really know what I’m talking about. And I’m hearing a lot of wrong information out there in the world. And I want to fix that. I want to help another scenario is people are scrambling and they come to me begging for answers that I only have fuzzy answers to. I mean, I know better than them perhaps, but I can’t say definitively that, you know, it’s black and white, and I’m not sure what to do with that.

Kenneth Vogt (17:51):
And I don’t want to, I don’t want to steer people wrong, or I don’t want to be held accountable for offering an opinion that is changeable. And then, then it becomes time to change it. And now nobody will let me change my opinion. Like, there’s something wrong with me. I’m, I’m a flip flopper because I changed my position, you know, and I don’t want to be in that position. So I don’t even want to talk about this stuff now, or here’s another scenario, I’m a scientist. So people think they hear that word generically. And they think I’m an expert on everything when I’m only an expert on this stuff over here. And yet they expect me to be an expert on that stuff over there. Okay. So let’s, let’s look at those scenarios. What do you do in a situation where you really feel like there’s wrong information out there and you want to correct the record how do you approach that.

Nick Oswald (18:44):
I think that you really need to stand up. You need to that’s, that’s your position for advocacy? If you, you know, this stuff about the corporate has been such a case study in this for me you know, the stuff that came out about that it’s five G and stuff, but it’s coming, you know, that’s okay. As I said, you know, the rule of thumb, you must maintain some doubt. You’ve got to, you know, even as if it’s 0.000.1% of doubt, just enough there so that If something else came in, then you could, some other evidence came in and you could, you could, you could assimilate that. But I think we can be fairly certain that it was nothing to do with, with five, five G masts. And, and so in that case, you know, that’s just a really obvious example, where do you say well, this is just completely incorrect.

Nick Oswald (19:34):
And here’s why, and, you know, you can stand up, but again, you can, I mean, how would you couch that? You have to say, you still have to say, this is in my considered opinion as a scientist. This is what it looks like. You know, this is complete nonsense and right. Yeah. So, and in that, in that case, it’s really important to stand up because a basic knowledge about how diseases are spread and how viruses work. And even if you don’t, I’ve got no clue how a five G mast works really so, but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the ability to to to transmit viruses.

Kenneth Vogt (20:18):
Sure. Yeah. Obviously we’re not, we’re not going to take any political positions at anything here. That’s not what the purpose of this. We want. In fact, we want to be free to be on opposite sides of this. You know, if, if you have that, if you’ve got a basis for your, what you think is accurate by all means speak it so that people can hear.

Nick Oswald (20:36):
So, so if I’m going to say talk about that, I see in my, in my opinion, there’s very, very low likelihood that that is true. The Five G thing is true, but as a scientist, I must remain, remain open to the possibility, even though I’m, you know, it’s not one that I would place high on the priority list, priority list for investigation. But I, I think it’s just worth putting a little caveat and not caveat, but a little aside here is that even me talking about this kind of idea of the difference between scientific opinion and science, I think some people think they’re the same thing. I’m just offering a perspective, my perspective that they’re different and how that can be a more freeing thing for people. And it might be an important distinction. You’re completely free to disagree with me. And, and, you know, that’s just the way it is. And until I got comfortable with the fact that I it’s okay for me to give an opinion my best, you know, in my, my best, most informed opinion. And it’s okay for that to possibly be incorrect. And I would never have talked about something like this because, you know, it’s, it could ruffle, it can ruffle people’s feathers, but I’m free. I’m more than happy for people to disagree with me and, and give me a different opinion.

Kenneth Vogt (21:59):
So, let me address that part about, feather ruffling because for some of you, you’re disturbed that there’s inaccurate information out there. So it’s bothering you. So one solution is for you to have a voice and, and correct the record to the extent that you can, but that can lead to a different kind of stress. Cause now you can get into, get into conflict with people. And if, you know, if you’re spending all your time on Facebook, having flame Wars with somebody that is absolutely certain, that little green men are controlling us, you know, that you can waste a lot of energy and a lot of effort on that. And, and it, it doesn’t give you that freedom that having a voice has, all it does is drag you down in neuron morass. So you really have to pay attention to what’s happening in any given moment.

Kenneth Vogt (22:49):
If you’re communicating, if it feels good, if it feels freeing by all means, continue it. If it feels like it’s starting to hurt you, then you gotta take a step back and say, okay, do I really need to be doing this? Now now, obviously there are going to be settings where you’re, you’re required to. I, you know, you’ve done your experiments and you’re required to do a presentation and it’s not going to be fun because you got, you got results that people weren’t expecting, and now you’re getting pushback. Well, that’s, that may be part of the job. You know, that’s, that’s a little different story, but they’re, hopefully you’ve got an environment of people that are also scientifically minded and we’ll hear like, well, here, here are the results we got here are the conclusions that we’re drawing and why we’re drawing those conclusions. If you are pristine about, about your, about your science and then about your communication about your science, you’re going to find you’ll have less pressure.

Kenneth Vogt (23:47):
And sometimes we get frustrated. Like you, just people, what do you think? Just see here’s the data look at it. It’s so obvious. Well, you gotta remember that everybody isn’t as smart as you. And I know this can sound, it can sound arrogant, but it isn’t, it isn’t about being arrogant. You can be humble and recognize that you have innate abilities that perhaps most people don’t and you got to get the piece of that. You gotta be okay with it. You know, I’m, I’m often the smartest person in the room. If that’s the case for you, if that’s the case for you, don’t be proud about that realize, but then I gotta be helpful. I have to, I can’t expect everybody to rise to my level. I have to help them along. So, you know, it’s like, if you’re, if you’re a third grade teacher, you’re the smartest person in the room, you know, you got a bunch of eight year olds there.

Kenneth Vogt (24:41):
You’re going to know more than them. There’s no question about it. Well, are you going to expect them to be you, let that would be unfair that wouldn’t get you anywhere. And that would create stress for you. Whereas if you could say, look, they are where they are. Well, what, how can I present this so that they can grasp it? And sometimes it’s you, you have that problem because you’re presenting to people that just don’t have expertise. They’re not stupid. They’re not inexperienced. They just don’t have the expertise. Other times you’re dealing with people that they really don’t have the, you know, the IQ. And so you’ve got to present it differently. So take a look at your audience. And then there are some audiences you just shouldn’t engage with it. If all it’s going to do is turn into arguments, you know, who knew, who has time for that? We have lives to live. So, you know, don’t, don’t find yourself, sucked down into that kind of problem. So let’s let’s look at the next scenario you’re being called on you, you know, you didn’t ask to be called on, but you’re being called on. So all of a sudden you’re there and somebody says, Hey, Sally’s a scientist. What do you think? And you’re what now? What, what do you do with that, Nick?

Nick Oswald (25:57):
Well, then that’s where you’ve got to, you’ve got to absolutely qualify what you’re saying by, you know according to, you know, what, what are your, your a biologists and they’re asking you about astrophysics or something, or, you know, or like I used to my sister used to have a boyfriend who, when I was doing my PhD on slime molds would hang on to my, every word about medical conditions that he thought you might have it was quite crazy. And yeah, you’ve got to say it. You’ve got, and it’s really, I, at that time I got quite, you know, I probably thought I knew more than I did than I did. And I would say, yeah, well, this is how this works and this, you know, and probably I overstepped my or I, how would I say it? I probably knew more about these things than he did, but I didn’t define the fact that that I, you know, this is what I know, you know, this is, this is not my area of expertise. This is just my opinion, based on what I know you should talk to someone else who is more qualified than I am if you’re really worried about this thing. And you know, and so on. So that it’s actually that actually I’ve actually positioned the, the advice or the knowledge that I’ve given.

Kenneth Vogt (27:22):
Yeah. You just said something really important there, just because somebody puts you on the hook doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You can let yourself off the hook and you, and you do it with humility. And you know, I’m actually not an expert on that. So you just, you, you can, you can take the charge out of the room, you know, without having to all, now I have to opine about something that I’m a little fuzzy on. So there’s another interesting thing. I, and I have a different perspective because I’m not a scientist. I am a computer scientist and, and, and it causes the same problems for me in different areas that, that happens to you folks. So for instance you know, I stepped out of university in 1979, there was a Burrow 9,000 Burrows, 9,000 mainframe there. That was the only computer I had ever touched.

Kenneth Vogt (28:14):
Other than that little Hewlett Packard thing that had a one line screen. The world’s changed a bit since then, but people still come to me like do you know how to fix my computer? It’s like, well, no, I’m not a hardware engineer. I did software. Oh, do you know windows? Well, actually, no, I don’t actually know windows. I’ve, I’ve worked on Macs and, you know, there’s this whole realm of stuff. Yeah. I probably know more than you do, but I don’t know. I don’t know it inside and out and I don’t claim to. So, you know, I’m not going to be putting in your, your, your new hard drive for you. And I’m, I’m not going to be trying to, to configure your, your, your windows. Cause that’s not something I know how to do. And, and I’m not afraid to say, I don’t know that.

Kenneth Vogt (29:02):
And not just because I don’t want to be fixing your stuff, you know, but if I know I I’m happy to help, but you can look at it the same way that in your realm, you know, what you know, and you know, what you don’t know. So feel free about that. You know, there’s a, there’s an adage out there would say the older I get, the more I realize how little I know. And, and I think that, I mean, that sounds interesting. It’s true. And it’s funny, but I think a more accurate way to put it is that the older I get, the more knowledge I realize is available. So, and, and as a scientist, that’s your job is to uncover that stuff. And the more you there’s more out there, the better it is. So you’re not looking stupid when you say something like that, you’re not even looking ignorant, you’re looking wise to say, I don’t know.

Nick Oswald (29:53):
Yeah. And that can be difficult in a situation. You know, again, this the COVID scenario has been really instructive or really illuminating in, in how all this works. And, you know, when you’ve seen people, scientists under pressure to provide answers and they give the best answers that they have available, but it’s completely not qualified mostly because you’re hearing it through the media, but also because a lot of the, you know, in the clamor for, for some for results or for, for the clamor, for information about the virus and so on a lot of the, kind of the traditional processes broke down. Peer review didn’t break down. They were just kind of, they didn’t have time to to enact them. So, so we were working, people were, you know, newspapers are reporting on pre-print that haven’t been peer reviewed and a person’s opinion on the situation was reported as fact. And that, that just, that was like a, it was almost like a caricature of science. What happened there and the, in the leading edge of what was being communicated to the public was really sought unrefined science. And it was being it was being presented as scientific fact and political and heavily politicized as well. Of course.

Kenneth Vogt (31:21):
So this brings up that, that next scenario of what you do when the time has come for you to change your position. You said this, but now new data has come in and you realize, Nope, we’ve got to actually do the opposite of that, or think the opposite of that. How do you deal with that stuff?

Nick Oswald (31:37):
So it’s, so, I mean, again, this podcast is all about creating peace for yourself as a scientist, right? So that, so that you, you know, side sidestepping a lot of these pressures so that you just do your job and you enjoy it, and you do it to the best of your abilities. And so as a scientist from my training or how I interpreted my training as a scientist in my early experience, as a scientist, if I got it wrong, that’s a bad thing and I did something wrong and I should feel bad about it. And maybe even try and disprove or deflect or, or do something about that. But actually, if you are setting properly in the position of a scientist, that all you’re doing is you’re presenting your best opinion based on the facts. Your job is to ask the next, quite the question and see what the answer is.

Nick Oswald (32:24):
Then you can, if somebody else asks the question and the answer is different than to what you expected or what you said, or, or predicted, that’s absolutely fine. It’s all part of the job and there’s a distinction between that and not knowing, you know, not, not knowing who you say this, there’s a fine line distinction between creating an opinion based on you know, the best available facts and, and your knowledge of the area and so on. And that being it’s okay for that to be incorrect and the there’s a fine line between that and not doing enough homework. So not informing yourself enough. So you can, you know, the classic would be, you’re doing your, you’re defending your thesis and you set forward you know, an idea, but you didn’t do enough. You know, you, you missed a set of papers that were really important.

Nick Oswald (33:25):
And so you didn’t arm yourself with the knowledge, but you and, and classically, that’s a really bad thing because, well, you didn’t do enough reading and so on, and in a way it is, but in a way that’s just the learning process as well. Nobody says, you’ve got to be perfect, or maybe your thesis committee says you do, but but in real life, as a scientist, you’re not perfect. Or your job is to do, to give it your best and not stress about man maybe I haven’t read every single paper that’s available. It’s just, it’s it’s to be committed for the right reason, not for the stressful reason of, I don’t want to ever be proven wrong.

Kenneth Vogt (34:02):
And chances are most of the time, if you’re changing your position, it isn’t because you did something wrong the first time. It’s not that, Hey, I, I completely messed up the experiment and got bad data. And that’s what I reported. No, that’s probably not what happened. You had limited data, you reported that, and now you have more data and you, and it requires to change your position. So you change. Now, I know in those rare moments where you, you know, I mean, it’s not imperfect to have to have limited data. It is imperfect. If you have bad data, that that’s your fault, you know, it’s bad data because I did it poorly. But, you know, honestly, that doesn’t happen that often you don’t usually have that scenario. Your scenario is much more likely that I have limited data. It’s good data, but it’s limited. Well, okay. You know, hone your craft, become good at what you do. That’s part of it. You know, that’s one of the things, if you want to be happy as the scientist get good at it, if you’re bad at it, you’re going to be unhappy.

Nick Oswald (35:12):
See, this is, this is another thing where Oh, I’ve, I’ve experienced situations where I’ve had bad data because I wasn’t doing it correctly. And again, it’s just one of those situations that the, the, and again, depending on your, you know, your outlook on life and who’s around you and so on, that can be a reason to just be down on yourself about it. I’m not doing this experiment properly. I can’t get this thing to work. It’s that that’s, but I think that the, the, you know, the peaceful position is to go back to, well, this is the, you know, part of my job, part of my job is to learn this technique so that I can ask the questions properly to make sure that I am including all of the scientifically relevant safety nets that make sure that if I get data from this technique, then I know whether it’s good or bad, you know, I’m doing the controls, it’s reproducible, the experiments designed properly.

Nick Oswald (36:15):
You can go back to those fundamentals with just care, taking care and and taking responsibility for the work you’re doing. And you can also get help with setting, you know, you know, find a mentor to help to set those things up correctly. And then when you’re executing the experiments, you make sure you, you make sure you listen to what that experiment is saying to you, you know? And, and and don’t just, Oh, well, that band appeared. So, yes. Okay. That’s the answer I was looking for. Let’s move on. You make sure that is absolutely pristine. And then, so you accept that again. That’s another part of moving away from the pressure from results. Another benefit of moving away from the pressure for results. And it’s not that you don’t need results. It’s that if you are, is a change in focus, a shift on focus from, I need to get this band on a gel, because that’s what I need for my results.

Nick Oswald (37:10):
Section to my job is to do this experiment with as much care, attention and commitment as possible, and to really listen to what it tells me, and then move forward. When I am convinced that that correctly set up experiment is telling, telling, you know, it’s telling me something, when I’m confident, what it’s telling me, then I will move forward. And if it turns out that was wrong, then I can take a step back and examine why it was wrong. But, but the, you know, at the time of accepting the result of that experiment to my, the best of my scientific ability, did I think that this was the correct answer? Yes. So that’s fine. As a scientist, you’ve done your job. That’s completely different from chasing the result and bashing through an experiment skimping on the control, skimping on the design, getting what you think was the right band zooming on it. And that’s cool. We’ll take that on to the next experiment, which sounds like terrible. I’ve seen a lot of scientists who, who do that, or who’ve done that in my in my circles previously. So and it’s a stressful life and it’s not really science,

Kenneth Vogt (38:28):
Well, young padawans, the master is speaking, listen. And, you know, for specifics on this kind of thing, that specific mentoring about, about technique and about, about process, and then about how to paint, how to assess results. There’s a lot of things on bitesize bio you know content that’s there, that’s explicitly about what it is you’re doing in, in any, any given area. There’s, there’s so much information there and that if you don’t have a living, breathing mentor in front of you, you have a resource like bitesize bio that can help you with that. And so by all means do that.

Nick Oswald (39:07):
So I would, I would, I would qualify that this before people go up and look up my publication record and so on, I, I don’t claim to have been a master in the lab, but what I have had is have had a lot of varying experience in the lab. And then in doing Bitesize Bio, a kind of unique position to reflect a lot on what went right for me in the lab, what went wrong and why that happened and what was happening for other people and why that happened. And so that’s where I’m coming from here. It’s kind of that if you can’t do teach,

Kenneth Vogt (39:42):
And that’s why there’s, there’s hundreds of writers on Bitesize Bio, you know, cause they all have different areas of expertise, but these are for the most part PhD scientists who are speaking about what they know from experience in the lab. So they, even, if Nick isn’t an expert on a particular topic, he’s found somebody that is and is, has them presenting for you. So it really, the idea of becoming a master is really is a great one. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in gaining mastery in any area. And I don’t whether it’s in your science at work or whether it’s being a snowboarder or, or painting watercolours or whatever it is you want to do with yourself, you have this, you have this literally this great laboratory of, of yourself in a place to get mastery at in your work. And, but you could play that out in your whole life. And whether you become a master there, you can also become a master in the kitchen. You can also become a master with your kids. You can also become a master in your neighborhood, in your community. There’s, there’s, there’s, it’s once you grasp that it’s applicable across your whole life. So that’s, that’s what we’re standing for here today. So I feel like we could go on and talk about this for another hour, but we are going to have to, we’re going to have to wrap it up.

Nick Oswald (41:09):
Yeah, I think that, that, there’s a, you know, you’re talking about mastery and really this is what we’re talking about is kind of peaceful mastery of the, of being of the position of being a scientist. And, and how do you do that? And, and I just think that the, the last, you know, you’ve got lots of ways of looking at things Ken, the last two have been something more about what I’ve, you know, a view that I would take that towards that central goal of becoming more peaceful, becoming more effective as a scientist. And it is interesting that both of those are about stepping back from what you’re in for me. Anyway, it’s about stepping back from what the initial perception of what it meant to be a scientist and stepping back into something more peaceful that’s a little bit against the flow. Again, going from looking for results to ask them questions, going from of feeling the pressure to stand the knowledge back to the the position of all I can give is my perspective and make sure that my perspective is as good as possible. And both of those things to me are straight away more peaceful and and free up from a lot of the garbage that surrounds chasing results and having to be right all the time.

Kenneth Vogt (42:27):
Love it, let’s say that’s a wrap for this topic. So Nick, I know you have the wrap up speech, so go for it.

Nick Oswald (42:32):
Well, so I would just say that if you, thanks again for listening, I hope that was useful. I feel like that was a bit more riffing for me than, than it is normally. So let’s see how that way, that, that feels if you’ve enjoyed that again, as I said at the beginning, please go back to episodes. One to nine of the podcast. Were Ken gives some really lays down some great stuff that has helped me and in progressing to working more effectively and understanding things more, which is these foundational principles of human needs, core mindsets and charisma factors. Again, you get those in episodes, one to nine of this podcast. Other things you can do to to follow us or to interact more with us is to go to Facebook, facebook.com/thehappyscientistclub. If you join up there, we will have some different ways of looking at all of this stuff and different ways to different discussions and, and so on, that will help you dive deeper into this. If you think it’s something that’s worth pursuing. So again, thank you from me for, for you guys, listening and Ken, thanks again for another great episode.

Kenneth Vogt (43:45):
Thank you. We’ll see y’all next time.

Intro/Outro (43:54):
The happy scientist is brought to you by Bitesize Bio, your mentor in the lab. Bitesize Bio features, thousands of articles and webinars contributed by hundreds of PhD, scientists and scientific companies who freely offer their hard won wisdom and solutions to the Bitesize Bio community.

Hosted by Dr. Nick Oswald featuring Kenneth Vogt of Vera Claritas.

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