Saturday, June 13, 2015

Scientific Intergity is an Oxymoron: Irreproducible biology research costs put at $28 billion per year

Monya Baker 09 June 2015

Scientists in the United States spend $28 billion each year on basic biomedical research that cannot be repeated successfully. That is the conclusion of a study published on 9 June in PLoS Biology1 that attempts to quantify the causes, and costs, of irreproducibility.

John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University in California who studies scientific robustness, says that the analysis is sure to prompt discussion about the problem — but should be taken with a pinch of salt, given that its estimates carry great uncertainty.

But Len Freedman, the study’s lead author and head of the non-profit Global Biological Standards Institute in Washington DC, says that the work is of value, even though it cannot pin down the size of the problem. “Clearly, there are tremendous inefficiences [in research], and this is putting a spotlight on that,” says Freedman, whose group seeks to develop best practices for biological experiments.......To Read More.....

My Take - If you go to the article you will see two comments, and I find both of them worth noting. The first comment is from Gabrielle Todd who makes this cogent observation:

"I believe this study loses sight of an important important role for federal grant dollars awarded to academic institutions. Rather than holding them to the high standards of profitability/output required for private companies, we need to keep in mind that the mission of academic universities is to train and educate. Most of the workforce in academia enters with little or no relevant skills and must undergo years of intensive training before they become competent scientists. Their terms of employment are also temporary (a few months to a few years), thus academic institutions experience a constant brain drain and influx of new, untrained workers."

So what can we take from that? All work from universities is geared to attaining as much grant money as possible to perform work done by incompetents who will produce what's necessary to attain more grant money. Presumably by giving the government grant makers what they want. This should lead the most casual observer to ask - If these people aren't qualified to do federally funded research, why are we funding them to do so?

Another commenter, Irakli Loladze, properly identifies the real problem saying:

"Evidently, the current grant distribution system is extremely wasteful and perverse at its core. The so called "gold standard" upon which the grant distribution is based on -- peer-review of proposals is clearly not working. It is about time to come up with alternatives, and the bar is set so low that almost any alternative could improve reproducibility and reduce waste.

I couldn’t agree more. Government grant money is now the golden calf of science and the universities. The relationship between government and the universities is incestuous and it keeps getting worse.


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