Asking questions

02 December 2021
Volume 11 · Issue 4

The cornerstone of any scientific investigation is the formulating and asking of questions. Indeed, being permitted to ask and formulate research questions lies at the heart of scientific enquiry and is often the first step in new knowledge acquisition. What makes a good scientific question is that it can be answered by direct observations, following an established scientific approach.

Scientists, researchers and medical professionals must be able to formulate their own research questions, even if this means challenging official guidelines, narratives or policies.

However, over the past 18 months, persons questioning the established COVID-19 narrative, or the advice given by governments, have often been silenced and sometimes vilified, not for suggesting people ignore government advice but for daring to question the very existence of the science upon which this advice is based. Take, for example, the current issues surrounding the wearing of face masks and that of COVID-19 vaccination side effects. A quick literature search on the medical database Medline for the evidence on the use of face masks and their effectiveness at preventing viral spread reveals (literally) hundreds of papers. Some of these research papers claim that face masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of a virus. Others claim that wearing face masks does help prevent the spread of infection. Yet others suggest that in terms of preventing viral infection spread, it depends on the type of face mask worn. Indeed, it appears that there is a difference between a face mask, a medical-grade face mask and a (mere) face covering. The point, here, is that there is a clear need to ask the questions: ‘do face masks work?’ and ‘if so, what type of mask is most effective?’ Merely asking these questions should not be seen as a challenge to the official advice; however, when governments are instructing their citizens to wear masks/face coverings, surely it is reasonable to ask: upon what science are these instructions based? What does the science say or prove regarding the wearing of a face mask or covering regarding preventing the spread of COVID-19? Science isn't static, knowledge isn't generated or created and then left unchecked or unchallenged; the constant questioning and challenging of established ‘facts’ is what moves science forward. Science is dynamic and fluid—continuous questioning is what keeps it so.

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