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ATTITUDE. It is an interesting word. Of course it generally just means our disposition or feeling towards something. According to Sir Winston Churchill no less, attitude is ‘a little thing that makes a big difference’. Our attitudes are shaped by our life experience, and impact on everything we do, as well as the decisions we make. We own our attitudes, and you might say we are the sum of them. However, and perhaps surprisingly, we may not be aware of how our attitudes form, or how they impact on our daily choices.
As veterinary surgeons, we confront attitudes on a daily basis. We are trained to take on board our clients' attitudes, and to help them make informed decisions. Curiously, however, we don't often reflect on our own attitudes. A review of publications in Veterinary Record since 1982 finds only 24 research papers with the word attitude in the title. Of these, most relate to our desire to understand the attitudes of others (producers, owners, students, policymakers) and only eight to understanding our own attitudes. Of course, this is a crude analysis, but you get the point. Our attitudes as veterinary surgeons shape what we do, but there is a dearth of evidence about them. If veterinary surgeons' attitudes are important, why are most scientists ignoring them? We suspect the answer lies partly in the fact that most of us are not trained that way. As veterinary surgeons, we do ‘quantitative’ science, and are less familiar with what some call ‘qualitative methods’ that seek to answer ‘Why?’ and not just ‘What, how and when’.
It is in this context that it is nice to see, in a paper summarised on p 646 of this week's Veterinary Record, Knights and others (2012) grappling with veterinary attitudes to the use of …
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