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JAMA 100Years Ago
September 21, 2005


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;294(11):1310. doi:10.1001/jama.294.11.1310-a

The public interest in research and in scientific knowledge of various kinds has a deep significance that augurs well for the future. Mutual understanding between the lay public and scientific men is a highly important and desirable condition. Prof. John M. Coulter,1 in discussing this subject, makes the following statements: Matter describing scientific research that is now published in popular magazines and in newspapers is scant in amount, sensational in form and usually wide of the mark. There is an increasing desire on the part of the public for information on these subjects. The usual method of presentation is through a middleman, a reporter, who presents the matter in a “popular way,” and in so doing makes misleading statements and almost entirely removes the scientific atmosphere. The important need in the situation is for the scientific men themselves to study the popular method of presentation and to provide matter which is at once scientifically correct and interesting to the public. Professor Coulter appears to us to have summarized the situation very well. He calls attention very pointedly to the common misconception of the practical nature of research. When a scientific man brings out a discovery which is of marked commercial value, the laity is apt to comment on the commendable transferal of the investigator’s energy from some useless laboratory experiments to a field of practical value. In this there is disregard of the fact that the so-called practical discovery is based on and is the result of, in many cases, years of laborious and patient study, which had been considered by the average layman pure waste of time. Professor Coulter urges that interesting scientific articles by competent men will show research to be practical, will secure endowment for further research, and will secure harmonious co-operation between the various persons interested.

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