A Call to Action for Scientists: Take It Public

If a scientist shouts in the trees, will those in the forest hear the evidence?

The media firestorm brewing since this summer over the validity of claims of Elizabeth Holmes for Theranos, a company with a $9 billion evaluation, reflects the larger inability of our culture to assign credence to scientists. Or even to ask for their input. This may be particularly problematic in the medical diagnostics space.

During a recent interview with Fortune, Theranos ceo and founder Holmes admitted that she has made mistakes by not better communicating with the public about the blood testing company’s data and devices. But this issue was raised early on by esteemed scientists who expressed their skepticism of Theranos’ claims of revolutionizing the blood testing industry, given the lack of available data.

As Vox reported recently:

In the worst case, this will be another example where the public fell prey to an over-hyped health promise supported by no good evidence.

Do distortions and possible misrepresentations of science happen because the public doesn’t want to listen, because the messages are absent or because they didn’t hear the messages?

Eleftherios P. Diamandis, the head of clinical biochemistry at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and John Ioannidis, of Stanford Prevention Research Center, both published their opinions about Theranos’ approach in peer-reviewed journals.

Although the public does not have easy access to most peer-reviewed journals, some mainstream media outlets picked up their comments and published the scientists’ concerns. Still, it took months for their insights to infiltrate the public conversation more deeply. They were pointing out what is now accepted by many, including Holmes: there is a need for transparency and peer review of the data supporting Theranos’ extraordinary claims.

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