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Evidence-based thinking is not rhetorical

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DANIEL MCCARTHY, SENIOR EDITORA few days before his inauguration, U.S. President Joe Biden nominated Eric Lander to be his administration’s science advisor as well as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In doing so, Biden took the additional and curious step of elevating the role of science advisor — which had historically been a nonofficial function — to a Cabinet-level position.

The move was largely a symbolic gesture. It brought no new influence or responsibilities to the title. And yet the scientific community should welcome such gestures as a reaffirmation of the validity of models and methodology in an environment where evidence-based thinking has somehow become viewed as a political position.

Scientific evidence was never intended to prove absolute truths. Rather, it presents models to be tested and challenged. Models either stand up to testing or they don’t. They either work or they fail to work. The point is that you can invest in and build upon tried and tested scientific models with a reasonable level of confidence that they’ll yield a positive return.

What sort of returns does science yield?

As Marie Freebody reports in this issue, the market for pharmaceutical testing and analytical services was valued in 2019 at nearly $3.5 billion, according to a report on MarketWatch, and is now predicted to grow by another 11% by 2027. Freebody’s article goes on to detail the role and value that spectroscopy is contributing to the pharmaceutical market.

Flow cytometry, which Farooq Ahmed explores in a feature here, represents a market projected to reach $8.9 billion by 2026, according to Grand View Research. A growing number of laser wavelengths, fluorescent probes, and analytical techniques are fueling this trend, Ahmed reports.

Lacking discrete components, embedded vision technology doesn’t easily lend itself to market reports. What it does lend itself to is high-volume production and application on a mass scale, as anyone who owns a smartphone can attest. In a feature appearing here, Hank Hogan surveys the latest advancements and challenges influencing adoption of embedded vision systems.

These and the other technologies that we cover in this issue provide ample evidence that scientific evidence is not rhetorical. It may be open to alternative interpretations, but not to alternative facts — and that’s something this industry can take to the bank.

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2021

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