In biomedical research, sometimes the topic being studied does not matter so much. Rather, what matters is the experimental design – what underlying questions are asked, what methods are used to answer those questions, and what are the positive/negative controls that are employed to differentiate what is real from what is not real. We then stitch these answers together to craft our overall conclusion. Really good experimental design makes you confident in the results, and you can also repurpose that design in your own study, to answer your own questions.

Unfortunately, experimental design is a difficult idea to convey to amateur scientists, but detailed science journalism can sometimes provide some insight. This article describes some nice work on long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) by researchers at University of Alabama. There are hundreds of thousands of different lncRNAs (at least), and while they are clearly very important, we know almost nothing about them. Which of these lncRNAs should we prioritize for study, and in what normal or disease systems might they be important? What questions/sub-questions should we ask, and how should we go about answering them?

lncRNA Experimental Design