Sci-Fi Fans Are Helping Researchers Build a Medical Database

slagheap, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
slagheap, Flickr // CC BY 2.0 / slagheap, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’re obsessed with science fiction, researchers at the University of Glasgow need your help. io9 reports that researchers are launching a new project entitled “Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities,” which will look at the ways medical themes and representations in science fiction can help us better understand medicine in real life. As part of the project, they’re building a crowdsourced database of sci-fi movies, TV shows, and novels to which anyone can submit information.

So far, the database only has a handful of entries—there are five movies and 45 novels listed—so researchers are asking science fiction scholars and fans to fill in the blanks by submitting bibliographic information for relevant media. The only requirement is that entries deal, in some way, with medical themes. Otherwise, no entry is too old or too new, too lowbrow or too obscure to merit a place in the database. So whether you’re a fan of respected writers like Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury or the kinds of low budget B-movies that wound up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, researchers want you to submit.

While “Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities” is an undoubtedly fun project, it serves a serious purpose: Researchers hope medical science fiction stories can help real-life medical practitioners better address ethical questions. “Science fiction asks the question ‘what if?’ which can help to think about ethics in a more humane way,” researcher Anna McFarlane tells io9. “What if we could give someone super powers by depriving them of oxygen, as happened to Deadpool? ... What if wealthy people had perfect and complete access to healthcare while the 99 percent suffered as in Elysium? All of these questions can help people involved in the medical industry to think about the consequences of their actions, and how medicine might develop in the future.”

[h/t io9]

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