Biology: An Interactive Tour
Biology: An Interactive Tour

Biology: An Interactive Tour

Lead Author(s): Robert Pozos

Student Price: Contact us to learn more

Biology: An Interactive Tour is for a non-majors audience in technology-enhanced learning and makes the complex world of biological science approachable and relatable.

What is a Top Hat Textbook?

Top Hat has reimagined the textbook – one that is designed to improve student readership through interactivity, is updated by a community of collaborating professors with the newest information, and accessed online from anywhere, at anytime.


  • Top Hat Textbooks are built full of embedded videos, interactive timelines, charts, graphs, and video lessons from the authors themselves
  • High-quality and affordable, at a significant fraction in cost vs traditional publisher textbooks
 

Key features in this textbook

Biology: An Interactive Tour introduces the content in a much more approachable way than traditional texts.

Includes homework sets with 30+ questions per chapter.

Embedded videos that apply biology concepts to the real world!

Comparison of Introduction to Biology Textbooks

Consider adding Biology: An Interactive Tour to your upcoming course. We’ve put together a textbook comparison to make it easy for you in your upcoming evaluation.

Top Hat

Bob, Pozos, “Biology: An Interactive Tour”, Only One Edition needed

Macmillan

Shuster, Michele & Janet Vigna & Matthew Tontonoz, Biology for a Changing World

Hard Copy

Taylor, Martha R., et al., Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections

Pearson

Colleen Belk, & Virginia Borden Maier, Biology: Science for Life, 6th Edition

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$63

E-book

$126

Hardcover print text only

$117

E-book

$166.95

Hardcover print text only

$95.95

E-book

$173.85

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Built-In Interactive Assessment Questions

Assessment questions with feedback embedded throughout textbook

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Bob, Pozos, “Biology: An Interactive Tour”, Only One Edition needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

Macmillan

Shuster, Michele & Janet Vigna & Matthew Tontonoz, Biology for a Changing World

$63

E-book

$126

Hardcover print text only

Hard Copy

Taylor, Martha R., et al., Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections

$117

E-book

$166.95

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Colleen Belk, & Virginia Borden Maier, Biology: Science for Life, 6th Edition

$95.95

E-book

$173.85

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

Top Hat

Bob, Pozos, “Biology: An Interactive Tour”, Only One Edition needed

Macmillan

Shuster, Michele & Janet Vigna & Matthew Tontonoz, Biology for a Changing World

Hard Copy

Taylor, Martha R., et al., Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections

Pearson

Colleen Belk, & Virginia Borden Maier, Biology: Science for Life, 6th Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Bob, Pozos, “Biology: An Interactive Tour”, Only One Edition needed

Macmillan

Shuster, Michele & Janet Vigna & Matthew Tontonoz, Biology for a Changing World

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Hard Copy

Taylor, Martha R., et al., Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections

Pearson

Colleen Belk, & Virginia Borden Maier, Biology: Science for Life, 6th Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Bob, Pozos, “Biology: An Interactive Tour”, Only One Edition needed

Pearson

Marieb & Hoehn – Human Anatomy and Physiology, 10th Edition

Wiley

Gerard Tortoria & Bryan Dickerson, Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 14th Edition

McGraw-Hill

Kenneth Saladin, Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function, 7th Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Bob, Pozos, “Biology: An Interactive Tour”, Only One Edition needed

Pearson

Marieb & Hoehn – Human Anatomy and Physiology, 10th Edition

Wiley

Gerard Tortoria & Bryan Dickerson, Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 14th Edition

McGraw-Hill

Kenneth Saladin, Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function, 7th Edition

About this textbook

Lead Author

Robert PozosUniversity of Minnesota-Duluth School of Medicine

Robert Pozos has extensive experience studying human response to environments resulting in hypothermia and hyperthermia. He established the hypothermia laboratory at University of Minnesota-Duluth School of Medicine and was a part of the chief civilian scientists at Naval Health Research Center in San Diego where he evaluated the thermal effectiveness of military garb for combat operations.

Contributing Authors

Christina AlevrasUniversity of Saint Joseph

Marion McClaryFairleigh Dickinson University

Explore this textbook

Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.

Chapter 2: How We Study Biology

Figure 2.1: Curiosity fuels our interest. [1]

Welcome to a world where you are both the scientist and the subject. All of us are scientists fueled by curiosity because we want to understand life and its processes. We also happen to be the subjects of our own observations because we are alive!

Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember asking questions to the adults around you such as why is the sky blue? How are ants so strong? Where do babies come from? You did not know it then, but you were engaging in the first step of the scientific method: observing and asking questions. Even today, your curiosity and everyday actions lead you to discover more about the world around you. However, as a scientist, you not only ask questions, you seek answers to them through various methods using controls, reproducible results, and peer review. You do not need any credentials to carry the title of “scientist,” but you do need to know the specifics of the scientific method. In addition, this approach will allow you to evaluate the validity of "facts" that are presented in the news. For example, vaccines were reported to have caused autism. The publication of this study caused an international sensation, but when the initial study that reported this claim was found to be inadequate, the damage had been done. The study had not followed the scientific method. As a result, based on false information, many children were not getting vaccinations. Science moves slowly and is an ongoing endeavor. In another study, the use of mammograms to detect breast cancers was changed so that women did not have to have a mammogram every year. The data showed that having a mammogram every two years was fine. This example demonstrates that science is dynamic. 

Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.

Concept Map

This chapter is divided into the four different sections as shown in the concept map below.

How We Study Biology: This concept map provides you with a tour of the various methods used to study biology and any other area.​

2.1 Scientific Method

Concept 2.1: The scientific method is used to study biology.​


Figure 2.2: Energy capture (food) requires many different inventions ranging from a rifle to hunting clothes. [2]

All the developments of our civilization, ranging from clothes to guns, and cars to medicines, reflect mankind's insatiable curiosity. Our ancestors used this curiosity and the problem-solving ability for a very practical reason: food gathering. This curiosity has led to the development of different ways of studying ourselves and the environments. As a result, sciences such as engineering, astronomy, and biology were developed. All these ways of studying require not only persons who are interested in these areas but funds for the studies to continue. 

Dr. James Smith is an avid weightlifter and runner. He is an exercise scientist who notices that recently some of his friends are taking a pill called XBU7. They claim that it increases their stamina, muscle definition, muscle mass and they loses some belly fat. In addition, they report that they do not have to exercise that much for the increase in muscle mass. This drug is almost a substitute for exercise. 

Dr. Smith is incredibly skeptical of this kind of anecdotal information, but he must acknowledge that the “users "are serious athletes. This might be an example of "fake" news. In addition, he is concerned that this kind of practice might lead to some unwanted side effects. He performed a short experiment in which he took XBU7 a week before a 10K race. His time was the best he had done in that race. Dr. Smith decided to seriously evaluate XBU7. The following diagram is the steps that Dr. Smith would have to take to evaluate whether XBU7 had effects that were not just "hype".

After his self-experiment, he "thinks" the drug somehow increases his steroid levels which would explain his enhanced performance, increase in muscle mass, etc. To test his hunch, he decides to do some experiments in which he will study if drug XBU7 actually enhances performance. He chooses a 10K race as his experiment along with measuring changes in muscle mass and measuring blood steroids. The following are the steps he must do to scientifically show that XBU7 lives up to its hype and will be discussed. 

Figure 2.3: Flow Diagram: Overview of the Scientific Method


2.1.1 The Scientific Method

1) Observations: Observe a problem that requires a solution or explanation.

Dr. Smith's Example: Athletes are using XBU7 to improve their performance. They say it works. He talks to more users such as military personnel and they claim that they take it to improve their performance. 

2) Review: Conduct a literature review of the data in the area of XBU7. There are two kinds of literature that deal with science; peer-reviewed also called refereed papers and nonpeer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed refers to the fact that the papers are reviewed by persons who are experts in the field. Nonpeer reviewed are any source that has not been reviewed by scientists who are knowledgeable about the research. In science, only those papers that are peer reviewed are accepted as credible. 

Dr. Smith's Example: Data from the peer-reviewed literature suggests XBU7 is an anabolic steroid, a drug that promotes the production of chemicals called anabolic steroid that increases anabolism by way of activating the production of steroids and hormones. Non-scientific reports state that XBU7 causes an increase in muscle mass, and stamina and muscle definition, scientific reports claim that short-term use of the drug causes increases in liver enzymes, low-density lipoproteins and lower male hormonal levels. His literature research indicates that XBU7 was developed to increase muscle mass in the elderly since they lose their muscle mass as they age. Internet reports state that XBU7 did increase muscle mass in the elderly. However, in studies dealing with rats, there was a slight increase in cancer incidence. The Federal Drug Agency (FDA) has banned its use due to the reported increased incidence of cancer. In addition, the drug has been banned by all athletic organizations. Any athlete that has XBU7 or its metabolites in their urine will not be allowed to compete in any athletic event. XBU7 is easily synthesized and can be purchased on the web for $25 dollars for a week's supply. (This phase of the study took months for Dr. Smith.)


Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.


Question 2.03

A medical journal that does not peer review its papers states that distilled water is better than regular non-distilled water. Is this conclusion acceptable, and why (or why not)?

A

Acceptable since it is published in a medical journal

B

Not acceptable since there was no peer review

C

Acceptable since science does not the support of other scientists.

D

Not acceptable since the topic of water is not a medical topic

3. Experimentation: Search for funds: All research requires financial support, and although it is usually mentioned as a component of the scientific method it obviously is essential. The researcher has to pay his salary and that of his technicians and graduate students. Research can be done on a more modest scale with volunteers, but eventually, the need for equipment, space, and personnel are key ingredients for successfully pursuing a research career. Many of the great scientific advancements were done by individuals who were financially independent. Darwin married into a wealthy family and had the time and "brains" to work on evolution. 

Dr. Smith needs funds for this study. He will try to get funds from the university to pay his graduate students to do the study and for supplies since he already has all the equipment. He will need to find a way to get XBU7 so he can be sure about its quality. Before he can get the funds, he needs to write a proposal. He projects that it will take two years to do the study, and therefore he needs funds for his graduate students as well as his time. His total budget is $50,000/year. 

Delts, the company that used to make XBU7, will give Dr. Smith a short-term supply (four weeks worth) of the drug for use on the project so that the subjects will be given the drugs for no more than four weeks. In addition, the company will pay Dr. Smith salary for 15% of his time with the understanding that they get a copy of the data. He can publish it without the company editing the data. 

Since the drug company will give the money to the university, the university will charge an addition 15% of the total grant award for general research support. (Dr. Smith spent six months getting financial support for the study.)

Question 2.04

The company (Delts) funded Dr. Smith's study. What are the implications of the funding?

A

Dr. Smith may feel obligated to come up with data that supports XBU7

B

Research should only be conducted with no funds to ensure the purity of the science

C

None. Dr. Smith needs money and whether he gets it from a company or the Federal government is not important

D

Finding funds for research will take time away from teaching students.

E

All of the above.


Question 2.05

Dr. Smith's effort to get funds to conduct his research is common practice. Is there anything wrong about a company funding research at a university.(Be complete with your answer)

A

Yes, since Dr. Smith may alter the data so that it benefits the company

B

No, since Dr. Smith is doing what is approved by the university.

C

Both answers are correct.


4) Hypothesis: Formulate the hypothesis into a question that can be verified. A hypothesis is an educated guess or a proposed explanation for an observation made on the basis of limited evidence 

Dr. Smith thinks (intuitively) that XBU7 increases steroid levels, but might have as many problems as other anabolic steroids. Thus, his hypothesis is that XBU7 will enhance performance associated with an increase in steroid levels.

5) Experimental Design: The key issue is to determine which outcomes Dr. Smith will be using to evaluate whether taking XBU7 enhances performance. In this case, he decides that he wants to use the following: 

  • How long it takes to run 10 k
  • Changes in muscle mass and belly fat

In addition, he has to conduct blood or urine analysis to detect changes in steroid and hormonal levels. Since only short-term referred studies have been reported using human subjects, and the company will only give him a limited supply, he will limit his study to no more than four weeks of taking XBU7. In addition, he has to repeat the experiment with another group of subjects who do not take XBU7. He will not tell the subjects which ones will get the drug and which ones will not. This is called a double-blind study, which means that the subjects will not know what drug they are receiving. Dr. Smith spent three months writing his proposal to conduct this study. 

Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.

4) Ethical evaluation: Submit your complete proposal for ethical review.

Dr. Smith's example: Dr. Smith's proposal is submitted to a university committee called the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects which must approve all experiments involving human subjects. Dr. Smith argues that this research needs to be conducted since many athletes are using XBU7 even though it is banned by the FDA and there is little scientific research concerning its effects. The FDA does allow Dr. Smith to use XBU7 on a short-term basis of not more than four weeks. The committee gives Dr. Smith permission to do a limited study on undergraduates in which he will use nonathletes. Dr. Smith has to write an extensive form that all human subjects in his experiment must read and sign. Dr. Smith mentions that possibility that this drug may have long-term effects affecting hormones and muscle growth. The process takes two months. 


Question 2.07

If the committee for the protection of human subjects does not approve the research proposal, the researcher may do which of the following?

A

Conduct additional preliminary experiments

B

Conduct the experiments

C

Not conduct the experiments

D

Conduct the experiments if the subject approves the research


5) Experimentation: Recruit subjects and conduct experiments to test the hypothesis.

Dr. Smith's example: Recruit young non-athletes to participate in the experiment. Twenty non-athletes (10 males, 10 females) will be involved in the non XBU7 component of the test as well as twenty (10 males, 10 females) non-athletes who will take XBU7. Initially, Dr. Smith conducts a pilot study of two weeks on five students and records their muscle growth and blood chemistry. The students demonstrate an increase in muscle growth of their deltoids and biceps and show no major blood chemistry changes. The pilot experiments take two months as he follows the students for six weeks. Subsequently, Dr. Smith conducts the major study with 40 students which take four months. 

6) Analysis and conclusions: Analyze the data from each group using various statistical techniques to see if there are statistical differences between the groups.

Dr. Smith's example: The experimental group, the non-athletes who took XBU7 did as well as the athletes in terms of the time to complete the 10K. Many reported feeling "jazzed". The heart rate data indicated that both groups heart rate increased during the race and returned to normal after the race. The lipid analysis showed that the experimental group had high levels of low-density lipoproteins and liver enzymes were increased suggesting liver inflammation. Interestingly, men showed a greater increase in muscle mass as well as blood testosterone than did the women subjects. Testosterone in both groups increased. Dr. Smith monitored the students for six months, and their low-density lipoproteins and liver enzymes dropped but were still high compared to the controls. Testosterone levels dropped very slowly in the experimental group and had not returned to normal in six months. Belly fat was decreased by 15% in the XBU7 group and muscle mass in biceps and deltoid increased by 15% in the experimental group. His analysis takes two months. 


Question 2.08

If there is no difference between the experimental and control group in terms of time to complete the 10K, this would suggest that which of the following is true?

A

The XBU7 has no effect on increasing runtime for the 10k

B

The XBU7 is affecting the mind

C

The XBU7 is affecting the muscle mass

D

The XBU7 has no effect on the body

7) Accept or reject the hypothesis: Due to the results and analysis of the experimentation, the hypothesis is either accepted or rejected.

Dr. Smith's research question was whether or not XBU7 would act as a steroid and increase muscle mass and also affect blood chemistry. The data supports this hypothesis.

8) Publication: Submit data for publication in peer-reviewed journals. 

Dr. Smith's example: The research is written and submitted to a scientific journal publication for peer review. 

Persons who have expertise in a specific area will review the material and make a judgment about the validity of the data. Usually, three reviewers evaluate the paper and report to the editor if the paper should be published or not. The editor makes a decision whether to accept or reject the reviewer’s advice. If the editor accepts the reviewer’s comments and decides to publish the paper, he/she sends the comments back to the author who then incorporates the changes or not. The time from initial submission to publication can be significant. Most publication in peer-reviewed journals can take six months or longer.

In Dr. Smith's case, the reviewers initially rejected it, since Dr. Smith used a drug that is banned by the FDA. Dr. Smith argued that his university committee gave him approval and he should be allowed to present his data to the community. In addition, he only repeated an earlier experiment where they also did a short-term study. Dr. Smith finally gets his paper published in any referred journal after a year of when he submitted it. (There are different categories called "tiers" of refereed articles since some are read more by other scientists. Dr. Smith was able to get his article published in a second-tier journal: New Ideas in Exercise Chemistry.)

With this publication, Dr. Smith can now actively seek additional funding to continue his work in understanding how XBU7 works. This is a classic case of publishing or perish. Publishing allows the researcher to present his/her views for critical analysis and, if the research follows the scientific method, he can eventually get more funds to support himself, his graduate students and technicians. 

Question 2.09

Match the scientific method elements with their correct definitions

Premise
Response
1

Observations

A

Conduct experiments answering a question about which you are interested

2

Review

B

Submit data for publication in peer-reviewed journals

3

Hypothesis

C

Recruit subjects and conduct experiments to test the hypothesis

4

Experimentation

D

Submit your complete proposal for ethical review

5

Ethical evaluation

E

Observe a problem that requires a solution or explanation.

6

Accept or reject the hypothesis

F

Conduct a literature review of the data

7

Publication

G

Formulate an educated guess into a question that can be verified

8

Preliminary Experiments

H

Due to the results and analysis of the experimentation the hypothesis is either accepted or rejected

2.1.2 Why Controls?

In Dr. Smith’s experiment, the control would be the subjects who do not take XBU7. Their data will be compared to those that did. This difference of results (if there is any) between the two groups establishes if the experimental data is valid. If both the experimental and control groups have the same results, then the hypothesis has to be rejected. Keep in mind that controls are not always possible. Control represents the same "group" as the experimental population without the experimental variable. In the perfect world of research, it is best to have the largest group of diverse subjects possible, but in reality, it is easier and wiser to start with small groups to control as many variables as possible. If the data shows a difference from controls, it is submitted to a journal for peer review. Scientific journals rarely accept papers that show that there is no difference since that is not considered to be worthy of publishing in a scientific journal. 

The following two figures demonstrate a non-scientific vs. scientific study. Figure 2.4 demonstrates a non-controlled scientific experiment in which a chemical is given to a population with no controls. Those areas that have a "curtain" over them will be used in a controlled experiment. In addition, notice that the subjects have not signed a consent form. The data is not scientifically sound since there are no controls. 

RP_CH2TestFlow_V3Curtain4 (2) figure 2.4.png
Figure 2.4: A non-scientific experiment showing that there were no controls, the population was not diverse, and they took medicine at different times. For contrast, the scientific approach is presented as well, but it is partially transparent.


In Figure 2.5, a scientific experiment is presented. There are controls that are 'matched' to the experimental group. Scientific experiments require more planning, time, and financial support than do the non-scientific ones since there are more steps required to arrive at data that is scientifically valid.

RP_CH2TestFlow_V3_Final (3) figure 2.5..png
Figure 2.5: A scientific experiment in which there are controls, the population is diverse, there is a placebo, and the same measurements are taken. The data from this experiment can be used to study XBU7 is beneficial and/or harmful.


2.1.3 How to Handle Peer Review Rejection

If Dr. Smith's paper had been rejected by the reviewers, their comments are sent to him. The scientist can resubmit the paper to another journal and/or make changes recommended by the reviewers. In some cases, the suggestions from reviewers may require the scientist to redo the entire experiment. Peer review may assist the scientist in enhancing his approach to the question but will require more time and funds to answer their concerns. 

2.1.4 It Takes a Whole (Scientific) Village

Research, at the highest level, is hypothesis-driven, which means there is a question that is being asked. Dr. Smith is relying on years of research dealing with steroid metabolism, muscle growth, blood chemistry changes, etc as he conducts his research and explains his data. Thus he is not beginning his studies without due knowledge of those who laid the groundwork for his topic. Having all papers digitized so that any researcher can have access to them will assist in the development of new research ideas. 

2.1.5 The Scientific Method: Some Challenges and Pitfalls

Figure 2.6: Identical twins are ideal subjects for scientific studies since they have a similar genetic composition which reduces the number of variables involved in an experiment. [3]

Although the scientific method is the most robust way to arrive at a new understanding of biomedical processes, it is difficult to implement this practice with human research subjects. Your body is a set of interacting systems that influence each other. No two humans are identical. Even identical twins have different fingerprints! These observations are important because medications do not work the same in various groups since people have different chemical profiles. Although the scientific method is based on the premise that every experiment can be repeated, very few experiments are actually repeated after their initial publication. The reason? Money. Experiments require large outlays of funds, and once a finding is published, people assume it is correct. Another reason that experiments are often not repeated and published is that scientific journals do not like to publish the same finding more than once.

In Dr. Smith's study, one criticism is that not all the subjects had the same exercise history or came from the same racial group. The term used to have similar control groups is called "matched" controls.

Identical twins are ideal subjects since they have similar biology, e.g. genetic composition, which reduces the number of variables involved in an experiment.

The sheer volume of research papers published each year is also a challenge for anyone trying to do research. Approximately 2.5 million research papers are published every year. In case you are interested, 50 million papers have been published since 1665. This overload requires new ways to assess and critically evaluate the scientific literature.

2.1.6 Inductive Reasoning and the Scientific Method

Deductive and inductive reasoning are used in the scientific method. However, these two methods of reasoning are also used in everyday life.

Deductive reasoning is based on a solid, accepted premise from which particular conclusions can be logically derived. In this approach, we go from the general to the specific. For example, a solid premise would be:

  • Malaria causes fever in all cases
  • Subject has Malaria
  • Subject will come down with a fever

Inductive reasoning starts with an observation which scientists use to form hypotheses and theories. It makes broad generalizations from specific observations:

  • Subject has a fever
  • Malaria causes a fever
  • Therefore, Subject has malaria

Obviously, the example above is a flawed conclusion. Most facts in biological science are based on particular observations from which general conclusions are derived. In short, the inductive method is the underpinning of the scientific method. Another example:

  • DNA directs protein synthesis (premise)
  • Cells have proteins
  • Therefore, all cells have DNA.

Notice the premise is not completely accepted because there is more involved in protein synthesis than just the existence of DNA. Therefore, the conclusion is flawed. The study of biological systems is based on using both inductive and deductive reasoning and rejecting or accepting the hypothesis. In most cases, the conclusions are based on probabilities of something occurring. The final point is that the study of biology has a large number of variables that are difficult to account for, with the result that conclusions are open to questions, hence the need for continued research.

How do we arrive at conclusions dealing with so much data from a single patient, or from an ecological system? Currently, we cannot! In the future, artificial intelligence–which are computer algorithms that can process and analyze large amounts of data–will develop models of how the smallest single cells to the largest ecological systems work. 

Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.

2.1.7 Contributions of the Scientific Method

Each fact presented in the succeeding chapters is the result of many years of research and confirmation. This point cannot be overstated. To many students, the facts presented might seem like just a dictionary of observations and conclusions. In actuality, they are the result of the curiosity and interest of scientists who wanted to understand a biological phenomenon. 

The scientific method has generated a large number of positive contributions to society. Some examples are the development of antibiotics to kill various bacteria, sterile technique, drugs to treat mental diseases, artificial hearts, and kidneys, support systems that allow humans to exist in space for months, computers, the internet, cosmetics, global positioning systems, etc. The list is endless and includes all areas of inquiry. Although the scientific method is considered to be the way to conduct research, the same process of inquiry occurs outside the laboratory. Learning how to be a better basketball player involves the same sequence of thinking. 

Question 2.11

Two rival nutritional companies are racing to get their muscle building product to market. Company A claims that taking their muscle building supplement will enhance muscle growth. Their data is based on a study of 25 men who took the supplement plus anything they usually did in the form of exercise, and vitamins. Company B claims their product works on both men and women and they used it on 20 men and women and also let them do whatever they were doing to enhance their muscle growth. Which company scientifically can prove their case so you will buy from them?

A

Company B since it used both men and women

B

Company A since it used more men than Company B

C

Neither company since there were too many controls

D

Neither company since they did not have controls


2.2 Non-Scientific Method

Concept 2.2: Non-scientific method is also used to study biology​

An alternative approach to the scientific method is “unproven” treatments of different diseases or conditions that have been extensively used, in some cases for centuries. They have not been validated by the scientific method. One of the major differences with these "facts" is that there were no controls. Yet some of these methods have been reported to be effective in minimizing pain, etc. 

In Dr. Smith's study, originally, XBU7 was reported to increase muscle mass and stamina. But there were no controls. The results could have been purely by chance. Relying on comments from one or two persons who use XBU7 is not justified. In addition, long-term effects are not even studied, putting the persons who use it in possible danger of damaging their liver, kidneys, etc. 

People have used various plants and chemical concoctions to cure or treat all kinds of diseases or conditions. One example is a certain plant which has purported abortion properties used by indigenous people in Mexico. Women would take the plant, soak it in water, and then drink the resulting tea to induce abortions. In the US, various natural products are used for everything from curing baldness to alleviating hot flashes. Since these agents are not considered medicines, they are not subject to the same scrutiny as are those sold by pharmaceutical companies. Whether these agents work or not is hotly debated, but they are used by the general population. An interesting component of understanding whether different techniques may assist persons with various ailments is called the placebo effect. In essence, the researchers are giving the subject misleading information. For example, a person has a severe headache, and the physician says to take a couple of aspirin. Immediately after ingesting the aspirin the person feels no pain. There is no "scientific" way to explain such a rapid change in behavior since it takes a while for the aspirin to enter the bloodstream and have its effect. Welcome to the placebo effect. The patient believed that he would feel better by taking the aspirin, so he did.

Figure 2.7: Acupuncture is currently being tested to see how effective it is in treating pain. [4]

The use of acupuncture was, at one time, not respected by physicians even though it had been used for thousands of years in the East. Presently, in the hands of trained experts, it works on certain patient groups. Whether it is the exact positioning of the needles in certain regions of the body or merely the act of placing needles into the body that causes its effect is not clearly understood. Only recently have scientists begun using the scientific method to evaluate alternative medicine claims. Presently, the National Institutes of Health through its National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is supporting various studies to investigate the effectiveness of alternative medicine.


Question 2.12

In the jungles of Brazil, tribes have been using an herb as a contraceptive. You are sent to the site to bring back the herb for chemical analysis. The analysis of the plant reveals that it has high levels of chemical stimulants. Your company wants you to tell them which demographics use it. They should use it on which of the following?

A

Women who need an inexpensive contraceptive

B

Women who need alternative contraception since there are too many side effects

C

Couples who want to plan their families in a more holistic manner

D

In no cases, since you have not done extensive studies with this drug


2.3 Ethics

Concept 2.3: Ethics is a key component of scientific research.

Science fiction stories, such as Frankenstein, elicit an important question about scientific curiosity and biology: should scientists experiment with creating new forms of life? Possible scenarios include altering DNA to direct the production of different proteins. Should scientists conduct experiments on unwilling or unknowing subjects to gather new insights into a biological phenomenon? Should we use animals that are similar to us, such as primates, or others, such as rats, to gain information about diseases, new forms of life, etc.?

Ethics encompasses three major points:

  • Scientists should consider all aspects of their experiments from an ethical point of view. Do the risks outweigh the benefit. 
  • In addition, all subjects involved in experiments need to be protected from undue experimental procedures. Exposing human subjects to undue harm for the sake of evaluating a hypothesis should not be tolerated. In addition, the human subjects should be able to understand the experiment and the possible dangers. Presently, the protection of subjects is now being extended to “animals”. Primates are gradually being phased out of experiments, and the use of animals, in general, is being questioned in scientific research.
  • Scientists should present their data without manipulating it to support their hypothesis. However, in some cases, scientists have “fudged” their data to get their papers published and/or to garner research dollars.

2.3.1 Ethical Implications

In the past, the rule of thumb was that the advancement of science was the ultimate goal of experimentation on living systems. Today, ethics now control the experiments. A fictional example of the lack of ethics is the creation of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Dr. Frankenstein took human parts and used them to create a human life that he could no longer control. Eventually, he was killed by his creation.

 A modern example of this fictional story is cloning, where research is ongoing to develop genetically identical organisms.

Figure 2.8: Frankenstein’s monster was man-made and composed of human parts. Should science try to make new forms of life? [5]

2.3.2 Humans

The story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancerous cells were used to develop a line of cells that are used to this day, is another example of an unethical approach. In 1951, Ms. Lacks did not give permission for her cells to be used to develop a line of cells for research, nor was she compensated. The entire saga is presented in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” The challenge is that although the methods were unethical in procuring and using the cells, they have benefited future generations by their use for new scientific discoveries. This is a complicated area in modern science since new advances are allowing for the development of new species and clones. Should scientists be doing these studies? Different cultures may look upon different scientific studies as ethical or not. It is very difficult for scientists not to get personally involved in their studies. Thus, if you are ever involved in any kind of clinical trial, read all the fine print to make sure that the investigator will not personally benefit from the results of the study.

Figure 2.9: Animals are studied in research. Studying how a barn owl captures its prey will give insight into how its brain works and possibly generate new ideas as to how the human brain works. [6]

2.3.3 Animals

Just as ethics should dictate the treatment of human subjects, it should also dictate the treatment of animal subjects in biomedical research.

Although human subjects are protected during studies, most animal species are not. The use of animals in biomedical research is hotly contested. In the past, animals have been used for various scientific studies. In recent years, this has begun to change since many people contend that animals also have feelings. Here are some of their questions: Why should medical students learn how the cardiovascular system works by experimenting with anesthetized dogs? Should cats and monkeys be used for neurological studies? Should surgeons practice their techniques on anesthetized pigs? Some medical schools have stopped using experimental animals in teaching medical students about different drugs. This change in policy was due to intense political pressure from various aspects of our society.


Question 2.13

Ethical consideration of conducting research on human subjects involves which of the following?

A

Subject understanding what the research is all about

B

Subject understanding what the research is all about and agreeing to participate

C

Subjects understand that a learned researcher wants to use his body to advance science

D

Subjects are aware that the researcher may not tell him all aspects of the research


2.3.4 Data

When publishing their data, scientists should state:

  • If they are benefitting financially from the research
  • The funding sources such as the Federal Government or Private Companies to support their research

Data presented in scientific journals should be actual and not artificially changed to support a scientist’s hypothesis. Due to financial pressure and/or personal pride, scientists have been caught manipulating or making up data. For example, a scientist recently claimed to have cloned a human being. It was later discovered that he had not accomplished this and had made up most of his data. Data that is reported in peer-reviewed journals is at least critically evaluated, but there is no guarantee that a reviewer will be able to spot manipulated data. Recently, to enhance the quality of scientific articles, some journals are requiring scientists to submit the data from their experiments before they analyze it (raw data) along with their finished manuscript for peer review.

2.3.5 The Future

It should be stressed that the modern advancement of science is not always 100% advantageous.

Figure 2.10: Global climate change is a major issue for our environment. [7]

Although humankind has developed new tools and insights into many areas of science, the question remains as to whether it is capable of handling these developments responsibly. The development of global climate change, for example, is thought to be due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide, resulting in part from our scientific advancements ranging from the design of the automobile to methods to decrease illness, which in turn, increasing human population.


Question 2.14

In a prestigious hospital, a surgeon who has developed a new method to correct back pain is asking your father to undergo a new treatment for his chronic back pain. The technique has been approved by the hospital. The originator of the technique would not be performing the operation on your father. What do you recommend to your father?

A

Not to undergo the operation since the originator of the technique may become famous

B

To undergo the operation but only with the originator of the technique

C

To undergo the operation, since the technique has been approved by the hospital and a certified surgeon will be performing the operation

D

Not to undergo the operation since it is unethical for a physician to push his own technique

2.4 Research and its Dissemination

Concept 2.4: Research is associated with dissemination and financial support.​

Let us start with the financial side of research since it is critical to developing new knowledge, vaccines, medical treatment, etc. As seen in Concept 1, research requires financial support for the long process involved in scientific research. Most people do not realize that funding is vital to every modern scientific discovery, nor do they appreciate how difficult acquiring financial support is to conduct research. Many research scientists eventually stop conducting scientific studies because the cost of time and repeated rejections is too high.

To put the significance of funds into perspective, let us begin with the following scenario:

In a large conference room of a building in Bethesda, Maryland at the National Institutes of Health, scientists from various universities were evaluating research proposals. Assistant professor Elaine Jones' proposal was under review. It took her six months to write and submit her proposal through university channels. Her research question dealt with developing a group of enzymes that would minimize the sweet taste of sugar. She had published six papers on this topic in tier one journals, but her research was considered pedestrian, meaning that her study was not breaking new ground in this research area.

The primary evaluator of Dr. Elaine Jones' proposal, Dr. J. Watkins, was not enthusiastic about awarding the grant due to a number of major issues he had found with the proposal. Specifically, he felt that more research should be focused on what glucose was doing at the cellular level. As a result of his concerns, he gave the proposal a poor score. Dr. Smith was notified a month later that she would not receive funds for her research, but she was encouraged to reapply. Subsequently, Dr. Smith had to scramble to find funds to support her laboratory crew of three post-doctoral fellows and two graduate students. The grant had originally paid for 25% of Dr. Smith's salary. That was also gone. She would have to resubmit her grant and wait for at least another six months before she knew if she would be awarded funds for her research.

Figure 2.11: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the organizations for funding researchers federally. It comprises of 27 institutes and centers that conduct and support biomedical research. [8]

Researching biology is nothing like you see in sci-fi movies, TV shows, or miniseries. The lab is not always neat, the results are not always clear, and the data does not always support the hypothesis. Nevertheless, new facts are discovered in the biomedical, ecological, or space research that will develop new insight into various biological questions, new vaccines, new approaches to diseases, etc. All scientific studies vary in their sophistication, often according to the amount of funding that supports them. Most countries support research, some more than others since they realize that scientific exploration can translate into new inventions, discoveries that can help the population, and the economy. Universities are the main recipients of these research dollars.

The nature of research is competitive. If you think the Super Bowl is competitive, try going for the Nobel Prize! In some areas of research, such as cell and molecular biology, the chances of getting funds are about 5%. Funds are limited to supporting important questions that affect various aspects of our lives, ranging from making small robots able to invade our computers to new drugs that allow us to manage pain. Faculty that conduct research has two important functions: they produce new knowledge (facts) while bringing in additional funding to support research at their universities and training future generations of researchers. The pursuit of new knowledge is not for the faint of heart. It requires a driven personality that believes strongly in the value of pursuing a research question. Scientists can be from any discipline, including M.D., Ph.D., and allied areas of health, such as nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Many areas of biomedical research include studies in fields as diverse as physics, mathematics, chemistry, information technology, and biotechnology.

Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.


Figure 2.12: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducts and sponsors research dealing with human space flight, space science, and applications. [9]

2.4.1 Funding Sources: Key for Research

Most of the biomedical research that is funded in the USA is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which, as of 2016) had an annual budget of 32 billion dollars. Another funding agency is the National Science Foundation (NSF), which supports non-biomedical research on topics such as global warming and the development of engineering centers. It has a budget of $5.6 billion dollars. The Department of Defense supports research that deals with various aspects of weapons development, human performance in extreme environments, and national defense.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), supports research for the exploration of space, such as improving life on this planet, searching for life on extraterrestrial sites, engineering new materials for rockets, and assessing human performance in space. In addition, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies support their own private research. Other important federal agencies are the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) whose primary responsibilities are to monitor the environment and arrive at ways to protect the public from injurious chemicals.

All of these agencies that depend on federal dollars are eventually approved by the voters—you! Even if you are not going into science, your vote and interest are important in these decisions since eventually the research will be translated into something that will directly or indirectly affect you.

In addition to the federal support of funds, there are a large number of private organizations that support applied research, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Some of the organization's goals are to decrease childhood deaths, deliver childhood vaccines, and reduce newborn mortality.

Most of these organizations support research for new biomedical findings, but relatively small amounts are spent on developing new ways to present the information. These agencies spend limited funds on understanding the learning process in classrooms. NSF funds the majority of these studies.

Associated with research support comes prestige. If a person brings in a grant for three years valued at $300,000 per year, he can devote most of his time to conducting his research and writing his papers to receive more funds. If he teaches, it is only for a couple of hours a year. In addition, his university will receive additional funds called “overhead” ranging from 8-40% of the original award for further development. This process has been very effective in allowing faculty to become experts in their fields, arrive at many new advances in medicine and in science, and also enhancing the university. In short, research is big business.

Question 2.16

Universities fund their research primarily by which of the following?

A

Support from Federal Agencies

B

Private foundations

C

Donations by students

D

Tuition

2.4.2 The Scientist: Who Are They?

Frequently, scientists are portrayed as nerds: individuals with low to no social skills, or with no feelings. They seem to be “different.” They cannot give a simple answer to a question. However, in reality, scientists’ personalities are no different than the general population. They struggle to find the funds to continue and publish their research. Most scientists are interested in how "things" work. They often pursue the underlying mechanisms to important clinical problems. They also represent a sizable part of the American workforce since 15.8 million hold bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees in science and engineering. Scientists may have a bachelors, Masters, Ph.D., or other professional degrees such as an M.D, or pharmacy or nursing degrees. In some cases, they have combined degrees such as an MD, Ph.D. 

2.4.3 Scientific Communication: Why So Challenging?

There is a communication gap between the scientific community and the general population. Contributing to this miscommunication is the fact that scientists have their own vocabulary, which is not easy to understand. In addition, there are a number of disciplines studying the same research question, each with their unique approach and vocabulary. 

Unfortunately, the end result of the way scientists communicate is that it seems boring. In addition, when scientific studies are presented in classrooms, they may actually be boring. The students memorize facts but do not realize what research question drove the discovery, nor the time and effort involved. Many scientists are excited about their research and its implications, but that excitement rarely is seen by the general population or classrooms. 

Further, to understand many complex phenomena, scientists are required to conduct very detailed experiments that will only answer part of a general question. This leads to the claim that scientists study minutia, but in reality, they are studying the underlying basis of what is of interest to the general public. A scientist that discovers how genes work will eventually be able to explain how cancer may occur or spread (metastasize). But their time will not be spent on cancer treatment, or how cancer grows. Their time will be spent on studying cell duplication in flies because flies provide a relatively simple model to demonstrate the function of certain genes.


scientist

For a scientist which is the highest priority for her to conduct her research?

A

The widespread application of the research

B

Its application to assist in curing human diseases

C

Advancing the knowledge in a specific area

D

The education of graduate students.



2.4.4 The Teacher: The Unsung Hero

After new knowledge is discovered, how is it dispersed? Who tells the world about the latest way to grow sweeter tomatoes or minimize Alzheimer's disease? One of the important roles of a teacher is to act as the translator of the work conducted in the research labs. This transfer of information has dramatically changed since the web is flooded with data concerning any topic. The teacher can be a university professor who also conducts research or can be a person who transmits the findings either in the classroom, the web or newsprint. Their job is just as challenging as the researcher's in that the teacher has to straddle worlds. They must not only understand the research but be able to teach it, motivating and guiding students to not only memorize facts but to understand them. It is difficult to convey the excitement of scientific discovery, but many teachers have evolved different techniques in the classroom to generate interest in science. The internet has become a powerful tool for the dissemination of information. However, some of the information is not factual and the reader has to examine the claims made critically. Conflicting claims about the efficacy of drugs, sports drinks, medical treatment are all out there and confuse the public.

The teacher's job does not stop with the presentation of the data. They must also evaluate whether the student has mastered the data enough to answer questions and think critically. The assessment of the student can be as basic as answering simple questions or encouraging the student to analyze the material. One approach is to use different kinds of questions to assess a student's ability to critically analyze the subject. One example of a question system is "Bloom's taxonomy" which is a list of the kinds of questions that a teacher can ask to evaluate a student. 

Figure 2.13: Bloom's taxonomy

The challenge for a teacher is that in many cases, the class has students from different educational and social backgrounds. In contrast, the researcher has a small group of persons that he interacts with that understand his research. Also, it is challenging for the "teacher" to teach the students how to apply, analyze and evaluate the research. These processes take time and are difficult to master in a one-semester course. Just as challenging for the teacher is that the feedback that they receive concerning their teaching deals with how the students perform. How many pass and how many fail? In many cases, the teaching faculty will receive positive comments from their students years later. To prepare lectures and exams that evaluate a student's competence is extremely challenging. The value of computer-based education is that the information can be presented constantly and is easily upgraded. The advantage of the classroom experience is that there is the possibility of a bond being formed between the teacher and the student which could propel the student into life-long learning or new and different careers.

Teaching itself is a research area. How do you present complex information to students and subsequently evaluate their performance? What are the attributes of a "good' teacher? Do laboratories enhance the mastery of topics or is it just busy work? Does web-based learning augment a student's mastery of information? One of the questions that arise from this approach is "Who is the teacher?' The real "teacher" is actually the student. The classroom, the web, or lab presentation will present data, concepts, evaluation etc. However, to master the information, the student will need to read and think about the material outside the classroom and its possible applications. 

2.4.5 Your Responsibility – Think Critically!

Figure 2.14: Data that is presented to you should be based on the principles of the scientific method. [11]

Science by nature is a process in which various views on a topic are constantly studied and debated. Thus, the modern consumer should be responsible for conducting a critical analysis of the claims about biological phenomena. Be aware that the data presented will affect you. In most cases, there are no simple answers to complex questions, like what causes obesity, or why humans get addicted to drugs, or how to minimize joint pain. In addition, the advice that is determined by scientific studies may change over time based on new data or a different way of doing the studies. Recently, the guidelines for how often a woman must have a mammogram have changed. For women who are 40-54, annual mammograms are highly recommended but after 55 years once every other year is recommended. Originally, the guidelines recommended that women have a yearly mammogram. Changing guidelines are vexing for people but science is dealing with complex biological systems, such as cancer, and finding the right answer is not always simple. It takes time to accumulate additional data and review the guidelines. It is your responsibility to educate yourself about the various aspects of biology that pertain to you and that you consider important to your self-education. Finally, be careful of various claims about health products. Claims such as that certain foods will decrease the development of dementia, oxygenated water will give you more energy, insulin injected into your muscle will increase muscle mass permanently, and similar, are not based on scientific data. Yet people spend millions on products with unsubstantiated claims.

2.4.6 Money Matters 

The following is a feedback loop depicting the process a scientist must go through to receive their grant. Notice that since the output is $0, the scientist receives this information and must keep the process going making this a positive feedback loop.

Figure 2.15: Feedback Loop: A positive feedback loop demonstrating that not receiving funds for research triggers the submission process. (A positive feedback refers to a process continuing and does not mean that the output is either “good” or “bad”. )



Question 2.18

A major sports company has asked you to do research on a new brand of copper strips embedded in shoes that strengthens the foot muscles. The funds will be spread out over three years with the understanding that the reports you generate will only be sent the company and not released to the public. As a new assistant professor, you need the funds to do research. Which of the following is the course of action that your faculty colleagues would approve?

A

You can accept the funds and work with the company

B

You cannot accept the funds since your data will not be released to the public

C

You cannot accept the money for only your salary, unless 50% goes to your graduate students

D

You can accept the funds as long as you get other funds from a government source


Question 2.19

When one conducts a scientific experiment, what is the most important part of the experimental procedure to show that the results are not produced by chance?

A

Ethics

B

Peer review of data

C

Controls

D

Review of the scientific data


Question 2.20

The non-scientific method has not produced any meaningful observation to advance the well being of mankind.

A

True: Only data from scientific experiments have advanced the well being of mankind

B

False: Although not as robust as the scientific method, the non-scientific method has produced meaningful observation to advance the well being of mankind.


Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.


Question 2.22

All scientific experiments require which of the following?

A

Hypothesis

B

Controls

C

Ethical oversight

D

All of the above


Figure 2.16: Chapter overview of how we study biology.

2.5 Vocabulary Questions

Vocabulary Question 2.01

This type of reasoning involves using logic to arrive at specific conclusions based on a premise. Progressing from general evidence to a particular truth.


Vocabulary Question 2.02

This type of reasoning involves using specific observations and measurements to arrive at a conclusion. Progressing from particular observations to arrive at a general principle. Alternative medicine is an example of this kind of reasoning. A certain disease is cured by acupuncture. Therefore, acupuncture always cures the disease.


Vocabulary Question 2.03

Consists either of a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon or of a reasoned proposal predicting a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena.


Vocabulary Question 2.04

A body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. This method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. It consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

2.6 Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of Max Pixel in the Public Domain.
[2] Image courtesy of Letsgonative under CC BY-SA 3.0.
[3] Image courtesy of Christopher Michael under CC BY 2.0.
[4] Image courtesy of Kphunter in the Public Domain.
[5] Image courtesy of skeeze in the Public Domain.
[6] Image courtesy of DLR under CC BY-SA 3.0.
[7] Image courtesy of Stefan Wernli under CC BY-SA 2.5.
[8] Image courtesy of Big Brother is Watching in the Public Domain.
[9] Image courtesy of MrMiscellanious in the Public Domain.
[10] Image courtesy of sasaint in the Public Domain.
[11] Image courtesy of evanst10000 in the Public Domain.