ICBioethics Blog 

The Role of Hope in the Future of Science and Research

Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)

Science, medicine, and research are constantly changing, adjusting, and improving.  It takes time to conduct research, which in turn improves medicine. Unfortunately, the ideas and imaginations of those in science work faster than the actual scientific study.  It is difficult to predict where science will be in the future. However, that is also part of the greatness of science. At any given time, a new breakthrough is possible. It can completely change the landscape of science and medicine.

Within the landscape of science and medicine, hope plays a role that includes imagination and uncertainty. It is foundational to the concepts of science and medicine.  While those conducting research work meticulously to get everything precise and consistent, imagination is what drives research. Uncertainty as to how and why things do what they do is part of the nature of researchers. They seek and hope to discover something new, improve the status quo. Patients put their hope into science and research for a treatment or therapy to address their diagnoses. For example in fertility preservation, hope is fostered because at its core, most of the options for fertility preservation are research protocols. Not everyone is eligible for the standard protocol of embryo freezing and sperm banking. Instead, patients participate in these research protocols hoping that when the time comes, they can overcome their infertility because of the research they participated in and other research protocols conducted.  Unfortunately, time and science do not always line up.  So while hope is important to foster, it must remain realistic and authentic otherwise patients can lose sight of the current state of medicine.

Researchers and scientists must walk the line between creating authentic hope in science and medicine and creating false expectations in future research. This could be as simple a conducting further testing before publication or providing only preliminary information noting that the science is new, still in the research stage, or needs further investigation. However, the public must also learn to be skeptical about every research study that they read. It is okay to put hope in science and research, but a realistic view of that hope must be maintained.

Mitch GennusoComment