Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Trouble With 'Scientific' Research Today: A Lot That's Published Is Junk


Many non-scientists are confused and dismayed by the constantly changing advice that comes from medical and other researchers on various issues. One week, coffee causes cancer; the next, it prevents it. Where should we set the LDL threshold for taking statins to prevent cardiovascular disease? Does the radiation from cell phones cause brain tumors?

Some of that confusion is due to the quality of the evidence, which is dependent on a number of factors, while some is due to the nature of science itself: We form hypotheses and then perform experiments to test them; as the data accumulate and various hypotheses are rejected, we become more confident about what we think we know.

But it may also be due to current state of science. Scientists themselves are becoming increasingly concerned about the unreliability – that is, the lack of reproducibility — of many experimental or observational results.

Investigators who perform research in the laboratory have a high degree of control over the conditions and variables of their experiments, an integral part of the scientific method. If there is significant doubt about the results, they can repeat the experiment. In general, the more iterations, the more confidence about the accuracy of the results. Finally, if the results are sufficiently novel and interesting, the researchers submit a description of the experiments to a reputable journal, where, after review by editors and expert referees, it is published.

Thus, researchers do the work and, in theory at least, they are subject to oversight by journal editors (and whoever funds the studies, which is often a government agency)......To Read More.....

No comments: