Im really surprised at you Ken. Our own profession is one of self seeking, personal glory and multi billion dollar profits. Acupuncture takes money
out of their pockets and of course will not be reviewed favourably...... And no, I do not practice acupuncture.
This is the editor of Lancet magasine. Read it in the light of your criticisms. I have little faith in the FDC or any medical
authority, any drug testing or any new advancement.
You want to be cynical? Here is cynical.
There is no profit in cure.
Go buy shares in drug companies and armament manufactures and you will be assured of a steady return which will become spectacular if they release a new drug...
“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
agencies pleaded that their comments
especially remain unquoted, since the forthcoming UK
election meant they were living in “purdah”—a chilling
state where severe restrictions on freedom of speech
are placed on anyone on the government’s payroll. Why
the paranoid concern for secrecy and non-attribution?
Because this symposium—on the reproducibility and
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 eff ects,
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 Academy of Medical
Sciences, Medical Research
Council, and Biotechnology
and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put
their reputational weight behind an investigation into
these questionable research practices. 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
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.
Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the
problem is that no-one is incentivised to be right.
Instead, scientists are incentivised to be productive
and innovative. Would a Hippocratic Oath for science
help? Certainly don’t add more layers of research red
tape. Instead of changing incentives, perhaps one could
remove incentives altogether. Or insist on replicability
statements in grant applications and research papers.
Or emphasise collaboration, not competition. Or insist
on preregistration of protocols. Or reward better pre and
post publication peer review. Or improve research training
and mentorship. Or implement the recommendations
from our Series on increasing research value, published
last year. One of the most convincing proposals came
from outside the biomedical community. Tony Weidberg
is a Professor of Particle Physics at Oxford. Following
several high-profile errors, the particle physics community
now invests great effort into intensive checking and re
checking of data prior to publication. By filtering results
through independent working groups, physicists are
encouraged to criticise. Good criticism is rewarded. The
goal is a reliable result, and the incentives for scientists
are aligned around this goal. Weidberg worried we set
the bar for results in biomedicine far too low. In particle
physics, significance is set at 5 sigma—a p value of 3 ×10
–7 or 1 in 3·5 million (if the result is not true, this is the
probability that the data would have been as extreme
as they are). 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.