The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Questions and Answers
by Rebecca Skloot

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Why is standardization of procedures considered so critical to scientific research? How can that standardization also limit the growth of research?

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Standardization of procedures is considered essential to the scientific method because standardized procedures allow for the isolation of variables. When two experiments are conducted in different ways, it is considered scientifically invalid to compare their results because there are too many possible things that could affect those outcomes for a scientist to have certainty that they know what caused changes in outcome. This standardization, however, has the downside of limiting the scope of research (not to mention the downsides to Henrietta and her family). Henrietta's cells were readily available, so it was possible for scientists to perform many standardized experiments on them, but the data gained from these experiments only amounts to a tiny window into cancer or genetics as a whole.

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