Why I Continue to Blog

sharma-obesity-right-way-wrong-wayThis is a question I ask myself at the beginning of every year.

After all, over the past six years, I have written 2000 blog posts. If each post took me just 20 mins to write – this would amount to 40,000 minutes or 666 hours, which translates to almost 4 months of writing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week!

Could I have found a better use for this time?

I don’t think so.

Although the blog started back in 2007 simply as a means to inform my staff and colleagues about my thoughts on obesity, my readership has grown to 1000s of daily readers around the globe.

There is indeed no shortage of new stuff to write about – there are over 100 scientific articles on obesity published every week – not all excellent – but by no means all rubbish either.

As regular readers are well aware, I often pick a single study here and there to illustrate a point or principle that I think is relevant to the obesity discourse.

Some may call this unscientific.

Indeed, I am well aware, that a single study – no matter how large or how well done – will never be enough to conclusively prove a point (at least not in the biological sciences).

This is why a whole field of medical researcher deals with compiling and analyzing data from across studies – the field of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. But such analyses – though better than relying on individual studies – is also fraught with methodological problems (as some of my colleagues put it, “It takes just one rotten fish to ruin a buillabaise” or (more rudely) “A compilation of horse shit, is still horse shit”.)

While I understand and appreciate the importance of designing and conducting good studies, the actual data emerging from such studies is perhaps far less important that most people (even scientists) think.

To me it is not the data or findings themselves that constitute the “advance”. Rather, I see scientific advance as that which ultimately emerges from the discourse that is prompted by any observation or piece of data.

Thus, it is not so much a question of whether or not a particular finding is “true” or not. Even a flawed study with irreproducible results can prompt us to ask new questions and move science into a direction that may ultimately lead to important advances (the history of science is full of instances where mistakes and sloppiness resulted in important scientific breakthroughs).

Far more important to scientific advance is the question – why was this study done (what were the researchers thinking?) and (if true) what could these results mean?

Any observation (true or false) is only the start of the scientific discourse – the thought process that ultimately leads to new ideas, new ways of thinking and greater understanding and advances.

To me science is not truth – it is the quest for truth. Indeed, the road itself is the destination.

This is why I plan to continue posting – picking studies and ideas here and there and playing with them to see where this process takes me.

In this spirit, I wish all my readers a Happy 2014 – I invite you to continue with me on this journey – who knows what new ideas and insights we will discover along the way.

Edmonton, AB