I’m going to tackle this from the biological sciences angle and answer: not quite. Sure some pretty powerful techniques are used regularly in the lab setting but there are some areas of much needed improvement. For example, labs typically focus on a handful of techniques to study their scientific interest. Furthermore, what do we do with the overwhelming data amassed since the birth of the genomic era? I don’t know about you but I’m bamboozled and I’m sure that I’m not mining enough of this information.
Why haven’t we managed to keep up then? 1) Time: because if a quick collaboration can’t be set up it can take a while to learn/optimise everything; 2) Money: because a lot of techniques are bloody expensive. Now I don’t want to go into the flaws of the business side of science – as this feels like a nice juicy topic that we should do in a separate rant (I mean, carefully crafted, solution-based article). But for the most part one lab simply can’t afford to fully embrace technological advances.
We need to keep up and alter our research habits
One part of the solution could be the wider spread use of permanent roles in scientific research. These could be specialists in certain topics (much like that of electron microscopists seen in some departments) or just simply employing a(some) lab technician(s) that would have the time/ lack of pressure to publish to fully explore and optimise some of the techniques. Another could be encouraging more people to collaborate. Modern research has benefitted hugely from interdisciplinary research and this could be aided by more cross-departmental collaborations. Perhaps a platform needs to exist to aid this?
Finally, what about the big data utilisation I mentioned earlier? I think a lot more training in this area needs to occur from as early in one’s scientific career as possible. Just the awareness of data banks and software available would go a long way; a bit of training in coding would also really help. So, in summary, new technological advances are exciting. We need to keep up and alter our research habits.
Key phrase: We need to keep up and alter our research habits