Reproducibility isn’t something that can be solved without considering the bigger research picture. So as part of efforts to improve the quality of research, we’ve collected tips and resources – relevant to each stage of the research process – from across the MRC community to help. Isabel Baker reports.
Methods are us
Good science needs good methods. Good methods ensure that health research and policy are built on the best possible evidence. Using robust, bullet-proof methods that are reliable and repeatable can also improve efficiency. Efficiency is important, as it’s not just taxpayers’ money at stake; valuable samples from humans and animals can often be used only once, and time donated by volunteers is precious.
Professor Susan Gathercole is the Director of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. Here she tells us about her working life, from her roots in psychology to the unit’s high-tech kit.
There’s something rather special about being an MRC director. You need to know what everybody’s doing and they need your support and direction. We have a very close and productive community, a place that doesn’t have much regard for hierarchy; I’m completely in support of that.
I decided to study psychology after attending a lunchtime lecture in my sixth form on Freud, in the days before it was routinely taught in schools. Understanding our mental lives seemed much more interesting and relevant than any subjects I’d studied before. I was fortunate to get into a degree course in psychology that had just started at York University, and was taught by young and inspiring lecturers.
The field of psychology that still engages me most, 35 years after graduating, is cognition. For me it’s the heart of the discipline, focusing on the processes and systems involved in the higher mental processes that are central to adaptable human behaviour. Research has been transformed in the past 15 years by the development of cognitive neuroscience methods that enable us to understand how cognition is embedded the brain. Read more
It’s 60 years today since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to scale Everest, under the scientific supervision of MRC researcher Dr Griffith Pugh. Here, as part of our series exploring the images of the MRC’s past, Katherine Nightingale looks into the research that was happening seven years later in this cigar-shaped hut on a lonely glacier south of Everest.
The ‘Silver Hut’ (Image courtesy of Jim Milledge)
This picture, taken in 1960, shows the cylindrical ‘Silver Hut’ of the Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition of 1960–1961. The expedition was organised and led by Sir Edmund Hillary, who had been the first to scale Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The scientific leader was Dr Griffith Pugh, an MRC researcher and mountaineer.
Perched — to modern eyes at least — somewhat precariously on the Mingbo glacier 5,800 metres above sea level, and about 12 miles south of Everest, the prefabricated hut was set up in November 1960. Produced in England, it was made from silver-painted marine plywood boxed sections, filled with foam insulation. The hut contained bunks, a cooking area and lab space. Read more