The Scientific Method in Biology and Biomedicine

Work on the book ‘The Scientific Method in Biology and Biomedicine’ will be continued. One chapter will be devoted to the concept of scientific paradigm introduced by Thomas Kuhn in his influential book ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ published in 1962.

He argued that scientists in their research are always guided by assumptions and presuppositions that are not necessarily clearly stated although they determine the lines of investigation scientists tend to pursue. These often implicit assumptions, which they share with most of their scientific colleagues, represent the prevailing paradigms that exist in every field of scientific enquiry at any particular time. Scientists are often not fully aware how reigning paradigms influence their choice of experimental approach and methodology and this may then make it difficult for them to accept that they should abandon certain paradigms when they obtain results that contradict their paradigmatic presuppositions. When they are guided by erroneous assumptions or hypotheses scientists will often pursue unfruitful lines of investigation that impede scientific progress. In the field of HIV vaccinology, there is increasing evidence that a number of erroneous paradigms in immunology and immunochemistry have had a detrimental effect on the research programmes which funding agencies, through their selection committees, have decided to implement. This may partly explain why after 25 years of well-funded research efforts, it has not been possible to develop an effective HIV vaccine.

Some of the misleading paradigms in this research area will be analysed. It will be argued that alternative hypotheses that better fit the improved knowledge of HIV immune responses and immunopathology should be developed and put to the test. Examples of novel and hopefully more fruitful paradigms will be described that may be more effective in guiding the future development of either preventative or therapeutic HIV vaccines.

Project leader(s):
  • Marc Van Regenmortel (CNRS, Strasbourg)

Leave a Reply