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The case against medical science

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  • The case against medical science

    As argued by the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet:

    “A lot of what is published is incorrect.” I’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules. We were also asked not to take photographs of slides. Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially remain unquoted... Why the paranoid concern for secrecy and non-attribution? Because this symposium—on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research, held at the Wellcome Trust in London last week—touched on one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.
    The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.
    The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.
    Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivised to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivised to be productive and innovative.... The conclusion of the symposium was that something must be done. Indeed, all seemed to agree that it was within our power to do that something. But as to precisely what to do or how to do it, there were no firm answers. Those who have the power to act seem to think somebody else should act first. And every positive action (eg, funding well-powered replications) has a counterargument (science will become less creative). The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously. The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system.
    Last edited by Paprika; 05-28-2015, 05:40 AM.

  • #2
    The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously.
    Examples?
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
      Examples?
      They're having all these symposiums on the big problems they're facing?

      Comment


      • #4
        Why most published research findings are false.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Paprika View Post
          They're having all these symposiums on the big problems they're facing?
          That works.
          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

          Comment


          • #6
            They should do a scientific study about this!

            Comment


            • #7
              I believe I understand part of the problem why the problem in recent history. It has been increasingly difficult to come up with new medicines and technology. There is increasing competition for the Pharmaceutical and grant money to do research. Therefore the quality of the research in medicine has deteriorated.

              Some of the recent failures of approved drugs and getting drugs to market have revealed weaknesses in the system of allowing drugs to the market without sufficient quality research, have put the spot light on the problem..
              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

              go with the flow the river knows . . .

              Frank

              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                I believe I understand part of the problem why the problem in recent history. It has been increasingly difficult to come up with new medicines and technology. There is increasing competition for the Pharmaceutical and grant money to do research. Therefore the quality of the research in medicine has deteriorated.

                Some of the recent failures of approved drugs and getting drugs to market have revealed weaknesses in the system of allowing drugs to the market without sufficient quality research, have put the spot light on the problem..
                Do you have anything to say regarding the government's involvement in science. Is there not the danger that the government is transforming science into a political animal (= not scientific anymore)?
                The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                  Do you have anything to say regarding the government's involvement in science. Is there not the danger that the government is transforming science into a political animal (= not scientific anymore)?
                  I believe this article and problem refers specifically to medicine, which I believe this can be a part of the problem. For example; Emotional involvement in the cure of specific diseases by citizens and politicians, can pore millions of dollars into a disease that may only effect a few thousand, and neglect health issues and diseases that impact millions.
                  Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                  Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                  But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                  go with the flow the river knows . . .

                  Frank

                  I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                  Comment


                  • #10


                    This is why you cannot blindly rely on peer-review, or the "self-correcting" nature of science in the short run, or "the experts" in this or any field of science, especially when huge pressures are involved (ideological, publish or perish, money and groupthink).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                      That works.
                      Either they make the necessary changes, or the field as a whole will become more and more discredited. So far it appears that the latter is much more likely.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paprika View Post


                        This is why you cannot blindly rely on peer-review, or the "self-correcting" nature of science in the short run, or "the experts" in this or any field of science, especially when huge pressures are involved (ideological, publish or perish, money and groupthink).
                        Your moving the goal posts in this thread. The article was references problems in MEDICAL SCIEMCE, and not science in general. Do I smell a religious agenda? Is it justified to make a generalization of research in all sciences?

                        Are you willing to differentiate between Basic science and applied sciences as far as the nature of the research as part of the issue? There is a significant difference in funding sources, research goals, and the amount of money involved.
                        Last edited by shunyadragon; 05-29-2015, 06:58 AM.
                        Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                        Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                        But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                        go with the flow the river knows . . .

                        Frank

                        I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                          Your moving the goal posts in this thread. The article was references problems in MEDICAL SCIEMCE, and not science in general.
                          Hardly. I'm moving from discussion of a specific example to a general example, to argue that blind faith in scientists is often unwarranted.

                          Do I smell a religious agenda?
                          Yes, it is common for those who idolise Science to conflate the rigour of particle physics research, for example, with research in other sciences. I am attacking this type of religious belief by using a certain amount of hyperbole.

                          Are you willing to differentiate between Basic science and applied sciences as far as the nature of the research as part of the issue? There is a significant difference in funding sources, research goals, and the amount of money involved.
                          Of course. When a general statement is made it is (or should be) understood that one is not claiming that all the instances covered are identical in all respects.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Dr. Marcia Angell, physician at Harvard Medical School and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine comments:

                            It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.
                            I can't say I'm surprised, but it's a little surreal to see these people acknowledge that their job as head-gatekeeper of the peer review process (at their respective journals) has been worse than useless.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                              Hardly. I'm moving from discussion of a specific example to a general example, to argue that blind faith in scientists is often unwarranted.
                              Blind faith in scientists is pretty much always unwarranted. Even with serious problems in some areas of science, though, you'll still be right more often by blindly trusting scientists than by blindly trusting politicians or industry spokesmen or some random guy on the web.

                              Yes, it is common for those who idolise Science to conflate the rigour of particle physics research, for example, with research in other sciences. I am attacking this type of religious belief by using a certain amount of hyperbole.
                              It does help to have an informed understanding of what standard are like in different fields. Particle physics is known for being particularly rigorous, but all of physics and (I think) chemistry have high standards. Psychology seems to be pretty lousy in this respect, or at least the parts I hear about. Biomedical research, which is a huge field, has lots of problems, worse in some areas than others. The search for genetic risk factors for common diseases used to be filled with garbage results, but is now quite rigorous.

                              Comment

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