Friday, May 17, 2013

Research Is A Dangerous Business

When people talk about risk at work, they normally mean the risk of getting fired, losing a business deal, and probably encountering some minor accidents like electrocution while charging their electronics. 

Unlike these risks, the risks you encounter during research are far more unpredictable because you work with unpredictable subjects; the weather (climate scientists), wild animals (zoologists), chemicals (chemists), and sometimes, the product of your own research (physicists). Even in social sciences, the research is often far more dangerous than your average nine-to-five job.
One particular technique in psychology, called participant observation, involves taking part in the activities of those you want to study. For example, if you wish to study the drug cartel, you would need to actually get your hands dirty. Sociologist Mick Bloor, a professor at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences once ended up in a bar fight while studying male prostitution in Glasgow. Lorraine Dowler from the Pennsylvania State University was forced to flee when her interviewee became the target of a street-level assassination attempt. Social scientist Frank Burton woke up one morning to find a submachine gun pointed at him. The body of Ken Pryce was found washed up on a Caribbean beach after investigating criminology in Jamaica.
These are just of the few workplace hazards that face researchers at work. We have yet to include stories of marine biologists who have face sharks and other dangerous marine predators, zoologists battling malaria, herpetologists getting bitten by snakes, and conservationists and medical scientists battling fanatic animal-rights activists.
In April 2013, an animal-rights group that calls itself Fermare Green Hill (or Stop Green Hill) occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university said that it will take years to recover their work. Michela Matteoli, a neurobiologist who works on autism and other disorders and lost most of her own research in the attack, says that she found some research students crying in the disrupted facility on Monday morning. Many of the animals at the facility were genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

A study conducted in 1994 by Brian D Crandall and Peter W Stahl intended to investigate whether humans could digest bones. They trapped some shrews and after skinning and brief evisceration, they boiled one of the carcasses for approximately 2 minutes before swallowing it whole; head, limbs, body and tail. Without chewing.

So it's very disrespectful for anyone to brush aside any researcher's project and label them as useless. 
Research is not just for geeks. It's also for James Bond. 


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