Subscribe to Newsletter
Fields & Applications

Questioning Our Values

It gives me great pleasure to have worked briefly with John McLean (Vanderbilt University) well ahead of finally meeting him in person at Pittcon in New Orleans.  John is a visionary making big strides in data-driven discovery and he is willing to use any tool at his disposal to solve the challenges that he considers most urgent. These include statistical tools like those used by Amazon to recommend our next purchase.

Back in the summer of 2014, John said, “Our potential to understand the answers to [biological] questions may lie directly in our ability to observe and translate complex biological responses as objectively as possible. But purely compartmentalized, hypothesis-driven research tends to suffer from a subjective bias towards what is being asked and how we are listening for the answers.” In other words, our search for the truth can sometimes be clouded by a temptation to focus only on looking for things that we expect or hope to find. And, let’s face it, that isn’t only limited to analytical science.

Like John, Jeremy Nicholson (Imperial College London) is focusing on the (very) big picture. Work done by both groups – and a whole host of unsung heroes – will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the practice of medicine in the coming decades.

Listening to high-level presentations by such icons is inspirational. And subsequent conversations can border on philosophical – as John will testify to. How, I asked, can we (the public) happily support the construction of an Olympic sports doping laboratory in London but find apathy when it comes to solving current and future health hurdles? Jeremy’s MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre in the UK was made possible by the adoption of advanced equipment ‘left over’ after our celebration of international sport. But shouldn’t we be more willing to support research that has the potential to change everyone’s lives for the better? Of course we should – but humankind’s naturally shortsighted value system means that we sometimes consider that other issues closer at hand (sports doping) are more important or relevant.

And that leads me to the Humanity in Science Award and a winner’s speech that left the audience gasping at the reality of the world in which we live. Peter Seeberger and Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern – the winners who received a standing ovation for their great work – highlighted the terrifying fact that 660,000 people die from malaria each year (WHO). Ninety percent of those are children under five.  Once we understand that it is a disease of poverty, can we (the public and scientists) do nothing? Analytical science is at the heart of solving problems and most of the solutions have great value to humanity – let’s hope humanity reciprocates by facing up to its evident shortcomings.

My personal congratulations to Peter and Andreas – and all of the entrants to the Humanity in Science Award – for making the world a better place.

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Analytical Scientist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. 1. Pioneers of Precision Medicine, The Analytical Scientist (
  2. Targeting the Untargeted (
About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. "Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment." On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. "I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication." Rich is now also Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

Register to The Analytical Scientist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Analytical Scientist magazine