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What should everyone know about science?
Adam Bly is the founder and editor-in-chief of Seed Magazine and the Chairman/CEO of Seed Media Group. Seed is a bi-monthly science magazine based out of New York and is distributed internationally. The magazine looks at issues located at the intersection of science and society. In 2007, Seed was nominated for two National Magazine Awards.
At 16, Bly was the youngest researcher at the National Research Council of Cancer, where he spent three years studying cell adhesion and cancer. Bly has received many international prizes, including being selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007, and has also received the Jubilee Medal. Bly lives in New York City.
Question: What should everyone know about science?
Adam Bly: I really think that the more important thing right now is not the facts. I think that the proliferation of digital media and simply web tools makes for just knowing facts to be less significant. I’m sort of less concerned about what are the top 10 things that every person needs to know about DNA; or that they should be able to pronounce “deoxyribonucleic acid”; or they should be able to list the planets; or they should be able to tell you what a stem cell is. Although all those things are valuable, and certainly you can go deeper into a conversation if you can skip the step of going onto Wikipedia and checking what it is. But you can go, and you can go to Google and check what it is. And there’s a great plethora of information that will, you know, satisfy that objective. So I’m kind of less concerned about the data points. I don’t know what the data points should be. That to me is a tertiary matter that we’ll work out once we figure out the bigger issues now, which is what should people be thinking about science? And that to me is truly what science is. We need a much better understanding of what science is and why science works the way it works; what pure view is; how science achieves goals. When we read something, you know, page one of our newspapers in any part of the world, and it simple says, “Scientists at a certain university here today announced that . . .” we immediately skip to discovery. We immediately skip to the outcome, the output of science, and we don’t have a sense of the input of science. And I think that’s terribly deleterious to our notions of what science is. Because if all we see is this output – as science kind of churning out results, and data, and things in a kind of mechanical process; a manufacturing sort of resource for society – then we forget that it’s actually people, human beings who may also have liberal arts backgrounds and then decide to study science; and have girlfriends; and go to movies; and go see an art exhibit; and have life issues; and have biases; and read books. And the way that they view these problems, which are becoming increasingly nuanced, they’re the kinds of questions that we’re all very concerned about – how the human genome suggests things about who we are; the power of synthetic biology to completely transform our notions of security, of asymmetric warfare . . . these are things that, you know, the Large Hedron Collider in Geneva that’s trying to understand fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, and who we are and where we come from work in evolutionary biology . . . I mean these are questions that we all work on the mind now to create more complete maps of the human mind. These are things that we all are interested in, and scientists are the ones doing the work. Scientists are the ones that are advancing our collective societal notions of what these things are. And if we don’t have a certain sense that scientists themselves are getting input as human beings from a variety of different sources, (a); (b) the scientific community, in order for them to arrive at a conclusion and publish it in a paper, it has to go through a process of pure review of vetting the rigor of the scientific method that really does make science the best intellectual instrument we have for understanding things about the world. It’s in fact because of what science is . . . It’s because of the institution of science that makes the output from science so valuable to society. And I think that we’ve seen so many different forces acting . . . as I was saying before, so many different forces acting on science that are disrupting it, that we need to come back to redefining what science . . . what we want science to be; what science is; how science works so that we all really genuinely have an understanding. I think the next step, and it could be five years of this, is scientific literacy and what everyone should think about . . . about science is simply what science is more so than any one data point that comes out of science.
Recorded on: 10/17/07
You don't need to know all the facts, Bly says.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
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