Skip to comments.Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis
Posted on 09/14/2007 3:21:08 AM PDT by gridlock
We all make mistakes and, if you believe medical scholar John Ioannidis, scientists make more than their fair share. By his calculations, most published research findings are wrong.
Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.
These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis. "There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims," Dr. Ioannidis said. "A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true."
The hotter the field of research the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined.
Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. "People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual," Dr. Ioannidis said.
Every new fact discovered through experiment represents a foothold in the unknown. In a wilderness of knowledge, it can be difficult to distinguish error from fraud, sloppiness from deception, eagerness from greed or, increasingly, scientific conviction from partisan passion. As scientific findings become fodder for political policy wars over matters from stem-cell research to global warming, even trivial errors and corrections can have larger consequences.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
This is particularly relevant as scientists try to spin tales of catastrophic global warming, the response to which will have massive effects on the World economy.
I’ll remember this when I see research “findings” that I think are unimportant - but I’ll try to forget it when read about a new “discovery” that might help Alzheimer’s patients (for example).
People who want to justify government intrusion into our lives often rely on white-coated partisans, who give their desires the imprimateur of “science”. From global warming, to secondhand smoke, to gay marriage, all of these issues, and more, have started out with clearly bogus scientific “findings” that were since discredited. But the political efforts continue on.
Alzheimers research is an area that has become particularly politicized, because of the nexus with the Abortion debate.
People who advocate abortion are too eager to trumpet any benefit derived from embryonic stem cell research, in order to provide a utilitarian argument for abortion. Similarly, people who oppose abortion deny any benefits to embryonic stem cell research, instead of attacking the core argument that some humans should be sacrificed in medical experimentation for the greater public good.
Because of this “proxy war” over abortion, Billions of dollars have been thrown away and every aspect of embryonic stem cell research has been tainted by politics. It is impossible to conclude that any research in this area is free from taint.
True, but there have also been a number of reports in the last few years about potentially useful nutritional and drug treatments for Alzheimer's, unrelated to ESCR. I'd like those to be accurate!
Self serving, huh? As in funding money?
Ya don't say. I'm shocked.
I would like that too. Time will tell.
The hotter the field, the more partisans it attracts. But, also, the hotter the field, the more money it attracts. This money gives “scientists” a strong motivation to shade the truth.
The press is taken in by these bogus studies and reports almost daily, proving to me that the average MSM hack has less common sense than the general population, which sees through the scam government-funded projects. We seem to get a large dose of these knee-slappers and belly-laughs weekly here on FR.
My favorite and most recent “refereed scientific study” claimed that pregnant women should avoid sushi, because fish contains relatively high levels of mercury and other toxic substances.
The multiple absurd flaws here are self-evident, so I’ll just mention this one: does the mercury go away when raw sushi is cooked?
An epidemiologist saying what we've been saying all along...
Always follow the money.
True, but there are multiple factors involved, including just plain old ego. Like other areas in society celebrity has become part of science. Discovering something new or ‘cool’ makes one a rock star of sorts in science. The highest profile journals don’t decide what to publish just on the basis of whether or not the science is good. They give heavy consideration to the ‘coolness’ factor of the research. If it’s not dramatic, they don’t want it. That is bad policy as it leads to overstatement and over-interpretation of data.
What field is hotter than relating everything to global warming?
People have seen so many of these “scientific studies” trumpeted one week and debunked the next that they are beginning to disbelieve everything they hear.
As tragic as this state of affairs it, it is superior to having the people believe everything they hear.
Scientists are on the verge of slaying the Golden Goose. The public, though tax funding, allocates Hundreds of Billions of Dollars every year to scientific research. This is politically feasible because, up until now, the public held scientists and scientific research in high esteem. Now it has become obvious to all that we are just not getting our money’s worth, that a lot of people are just gaming the system while a lot of others are abusing it for political gain. Why are the taxpayers going to want to fund that?
There are many hot fields right now, but none hotter than Global Warming. Not surprisingly, some of the most unsupportable conclusions have been found in that area.
Ego also influences the peer review process. The reviewers protect the inquiry status quo, upon which their careers and reputations were built, by holding work that challenges their own views to a much higher standard. Research that agrees with what you already think must be right... right? So it gets published. Published science must be right... right? Behold the laminar flow of the Normal Science mainstream (per Hacking), otherwise known as a circle jerk.
TC, from what I’ve heard, some of them are even understating the breakthroughs that are soon coming.
I hope that’s true - especially the “soon” part!
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