I once picked a journal of microbiology and I was interested in a topic which involves the testing of a group of antibiotics against some sets of microorganisms. It was of course found out that some of the microorganisms are susceptible to some of the antibiotics, while some are not.
The above picture looks simple enough when I laid it out like that, but that wasn’t the way it was stated in the journal. The title of the topic was actually something like: The activity of so-so enzymes of so-so microorganisms in the neutralization of so-so compounds present in so-so antibiotics. The conclusion was also like: Because of so-so enzymatic activities within so-so microorganisms, the compound tested against them wasn’t effective.
For a microbiologist like me, I could relate to this, even if at the minimal level, though I couldn’t fathom most of the terms used within the context. However, firstly, the meaning is lost to a layman or a non-scientific educated person who pick up the research paper to read, and secondly to the general public, the finding is useless to them. How does it benefit them? What is the way forward after the discovery of such magnitude? How does that translate to a useful application for the betterment of the ordinary man?
I started getting really weary of always trying to decipher what the benefit of any particular topic is in scientific journals along time ago. If we put aside the aim, objectives and justifications for researches given in these journals, what we are left with are high technical methods and methodologies employed during the research, as well as doses of vocabularies and terms very well above the comprehending of sometimes the well-versed professionals, not to talk of a non-scientist or a scientist not in that field.
Over the years in my little advent in the science world, particularly in Microbiology, I’ve found out that the bane of scientific findings is inherent in the fact that most of our researches are only meant for academic work and small attention is being paid to the application of the knowledge gained. Most of our works always end up getting stuck in journals at postgraduate and postdoctoral level, or on the shelves of the departmental head in case of undergraduate students. I stand to be corrected but 60-70% of the total scientific works done in Nigeria are not applied, except if backed by government, which is very unlikely in most cases, or sponsored by grants from interested companies whose criteria for applications are stringent.
Of course, this is hardly the fault of the scientific communities. The socio-political and economical climate of the country hasn’t been able to provide the necessary ingredient to promote the culture of applying our research works, not only in the scientific fields, but also in the social, financial and literary/artistic fields. This factor, aided by a prominent trend in the academic called the ‘publish or perish’ syndrome, has made many researchers lost focus of the vital and moral reason for which they are carrying out researches in the first place: the betterment of humanity.
Another notorious side of these anomalies occurs in cases where participants or subjects in a particular research do not get feedback from the researchers. The results are never heard of by these communities or individuals where or on whom the research was carried out, whereas it would have been part of the promises made before the research was done. The results are published in publications and journals where the impact will not be felt and of course, would add to the profile of the researcher while the problems of the participating individuals or communities remain with them.
I may be a relatively naive upcoming scientist dabbling in affairs which I know nothing or little of, and as a friend of mine once pointed out, I may never understand academic or research politics. But that doesn’t stop me from still dreaming about science been the cure for almost all ailments of the society. I love making impact, albeit in my own little way, and I believe the best way of achieving that is being a scientist as well as being a purveyor of relevant information necessary for the betterment of humanity from my field, Microbiology.