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Becoming an amateur medical researcher

  1. Oct 8, 2012 #1
    Background: I'm in my senior year as an accounting undergrad and plan to stay in the program and the field until I can become financially independent, hopefully very early in my life. I don't have a passion for accounting anything like what I do for science, health, and medicine (of which I've realized only in the past year). The reason I don't switch fields is mainly my being pragmatic about the kind of job/stability I'd have and debt induced if I were to make a change. However, I still have a passion for understanding health and medicine in scientific terms, mainly due to my own long-lasting health problems. So I've tossed around the thought of learning in my own time throughout the years and becoming an amateur of sorts and continuing my interests without a PhD or MD.

    My questions are: How possible is it to have papers published in journals without relevant credentials or networks if all the same standards are met? How possible is it to have any influence, however small, on the state of research without being a professional myself? Can you think of anyone who's done this successfully?

    Without funding of course the most I'd like to contribute are review articles that may help focus the attention of professionals on specific areas so they could follow up with the primary research.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2012 #2
    Medical research requires billions of dollars and an army of lawyers.
  4. Oct 8, 2012 #3
    Take note of my last paragraph.
  5. Oct 8, 2012 #4
    Ok. You won't even be able to know the specific problems. That is to say, you don't even know the problems of the field that aren't so general that its obvious. You don't know why something is hard, until you actually get to try it.
  6. Oct 8, 2012 #5
    So you're saying the specifics can only be learned in a PhD program? Why can't the resources be sought out independent of that?
  7. Oct 8, 2012 #6
    Most scientific journals are not free, especially the ones with higher impact ratings.
  8. Oct 8, 2012 #7
    Open access journals and papers are free (usually), and considering they are becoming the future predominant medium of scientific literature, I stand a good chance at having free access to most science literature in the next decade or so.

    Additionally, I'd have significantly more money than I would if I were to pursue a PhD if my last statement was completely wrong and I needed to pay to subscribe to journals. So I still fail to see how I can't acquire the resources independently.
  9. Oct 8, 2012 #8
    I'm not trying to convince you of anything. Since you've already convinced yourself that it is possible, then go for it.
  10. Oct 8, 2012 #9
    I haven't convinced myself, I'm looking for someone to show how I couldn't do it in case I overlooked something. To me it seems reasonable I could get the same knowledge with enough time and effort, but the question of whether or not I could ever get published is less certain for instance.

    I'll be pursuing it as a hobby regardless, but the question of whether or not I could ever get published is important in reconsidering a career switch. Unless it's super unlikely to ever be heard or have access to the resources, I see no reason to change tracks.
  11. Oct 8, 2012 #10

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    Review articles are written by acknowledged experts in the field. That strategy is unlikely to work.
  12. Oct 8, 2012 #11
    I don't know if I'm stating it accurately. Secondary research articles may be a better phrase - basically an interpretation of several primary research articles. Those are also written by experts?

    Basically, if I made a reasonable interpretation or hypothesis based on existing data, would it ever be publishable?
  13. Oct 8, 2012 #12
    Honestly, no. An interpretation of several primary research articles is generally called a review article, and no one will publish you. If you really want to do this, you could certainly blog about it, but you should not expect to be published in a journal.
  14. Oct 8, 2012 #13
    Alright fair enough. If I ever found something noteworthy and wanted to appeal to the scientific community then my best bet would be to catch the attention of someone who could end up publishing something? Is it possible to network as an amateur?
  15. Oct 8, 2012 #14


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    A certain level of expertise is required in order to evaluate data or scientific information and draw a valid hypothesis. Such expertise usually requires education on par with an advanced degree, e.g., PhD or MD.

    Simply reading articles and drawing a conclusion or developing a hypothesis without some knowledge of the subject usually doesn't work. There may be unique cases where some individual has developed a certain level of expertise or knowledge to enable him or her to make valid scientific contributions. I imagine that is rare.

    One could pursue a job with a health services or humanitarian/philanthropic organization e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and gradually learn about health issues.
  16. Oct 8, 2012 #15
    I plan to learn the subjects involved on my own time and throughout many years. I'm not suggesting I hope to understand anything without background information.
  17. Oct 8, 2012 #16

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    Only if you bring something to the table.

    What you will need to do is to get the equivalent level of expertise as a professional researcher. This will take years even full-time and many more years part-time.

    If you want to put that much effort in, I recommend you do it full-time.
  18. Oct 8, 2012 #17
    Ok thanks. I plan on doing it part time until I'm financially independent (hopefully in my later 30's), at which point I will pursue it full-time. That's the plan at least. I'll have to settle with making a blog probably.
  19. Oct 13, 2012 #18
    I'd like to add a question to my OP. I'm tossing around the idea of becoming a physician assistant and have heard anecdotes of publishing in medical journals from that position, but I can't find any info on that anywhere. Thoughts?
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