Science Hates Bias

Farhana Merzoug - cropToday’s guest blog comes from Farhana Merzoug, Ph.D., a Principal Research Scientist at Lilly whose work focuses on preclinical oncology tailoring.

In science, bias is dangerous. Even if unintentional, scientific bias alters conclusions and can even impact the direction of future scientific approaches, assumptions and thinking. At best, it takes us off-course and wastes time. At worst, it damages reputations and hurts people.

I believe the same could be said for life outside the lab. Bias is a damaging force that takes away from our best selves and our best work. We see evidence in the news every day; recently, a 14-year-old Muslim boy in Texas was arrested when school officials feared that his homemade clock was a bomb. It was, indeed, just a clock.

Bias in many forms will always be with us. But when we shine a light on diversity, bias retreats into the shadows.

At Lilly, I lead a small group of scientists who help determine which patients, from a genetic standpoint, might benefit most from investigational cancer medicines. I’m passionate about my work because if we understand who the medicines can help, we can tailor the right medicine for individual people. Our steadfast goal, of course, is to improve, extend and save lives. And I’m particularly passionate about making a difference.

Working with people from diverse backgrounds is one of the parts of my job that I love the most. As many scientists will tell you, the best scientific discovery is never a straight line. Instead, it’s multi-branched and requires diverse inputs, creative problem-solving and a healthy amount of skepticism and debate along the way.

Diversity in science and research is not just a “nice to have” thing. It is essential to opening our eyes and our hearts to bold solutions, without bias. Let’s encourage diversity of all kinds, particularly when we need major breakthroughs for urgent medical needs.

 

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