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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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March 14, 2014

Going After Poor Published Research

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Posted by Derek

This should be interesting - John Ioannidis, scourge of poorly reproducible published results, is founding an institute at Stanford. The Economist has more:

They will create a “journal watch” to monitor scientific publishers’ work and to shame laggards into better behaviour. And they will spread the message to policymakers, governments and other interested parties, in an effort to stop them making decisions on the basis of flaky studies. All this in the name of the centre’s nerdishly valiant mission statement: “Identifying and minimising persistent threats to medical-research quality.”

It will be most interesting to see what comes of this. Better quality research is in everyone's best interest, to put it mildly, and I hope that this leads to some.

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. anonymous coward on March 14, 2014 10:22 AM writes...

Except people that publish bad studies to further their careers (because crappy, barely-checked studies are much easier to do than good ones), or universities that collect overhead on grants from those professors, or journals filled to the gills with such research, or dishonest policy wonks who are willing to use whatever research suits their interest to further their interests. They can all be trumped by the people who actually fund the research, but they are capable of making a blizzard of their own. I hope it works, though.

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2. watcher on March 14, 2014 10:27 AM writes...

Wow. I'm sure there will be a lot of grant money for this.....NOT.

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3. Mike on March 14, 2014 11:08 AM writes...

Improving the efficacy of publish reports is important, and will continue to be more vital as research becomes more niche and complex over time.
The problem with people like John Ioannidis is they have the poor judgement to publish papers titled "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False." Things like this will be grabbed by the popular press (e.g. )
to discredit the scientific method and scientists in general. Global warming deniers, anti-vaccine groups, politicians and the like grab on to these things and cause a grave amount of harm. I only hope this new effort will go forth with more care and thought of its repercussions.

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4. DV Henkel-Wallace on March 14, 2014 12:52 PM writes...

Derek, I believe you speak German: Researchgate is claiming that their system was instrumental in overturning the recent Riken institute stem cell work:

The most audacious claim is "Peer Review ist ein veraltetes Modell" -- "peer review is outdated". At first I took this as simple hype, but if we realize that a lot of the "contribution" to scientific debate, particularly in the mainstream press, consists of press releases and opinion-become-fact, maybe worrying about peer review is the wrong place to spend time on.

(and never forget that "contribution" has both a magnitude AND a sign!)

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5. gippgig on March 14, 2014 2:12 PM writes...

Today's Washington Post newspaper has an item on The Fed Page (A16) about the head of the Office of Research Integrity quitting in disgust at how "profoundly dysfunctional" the federal bureaucracy was.

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6. dearieme on March 14, 2014 2:32 PM writes...

Oh no! Medical denialists!

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7. Anonymous on March 15, 2014 12:17 PM writes...

nobody expects the spanish inquisition!

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8. gippgig on March 17, 2014 3:25 AM writes...

Off topic, but this may be of interest:

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9. gippgig on March 17, 2014 3:27 AM writes...

Off topic, but this may be of interest:

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10. Screener on March 17, 2014 8:14 AM writes...

Interesting in light of OSHA's recent request for disclousre of funding sources for those commenting on new rules regulating occupational dust exposures ( Sounds like this initiative might also be able to encourage greater transparency.

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11. DCRogers on March 17, 2014 5:02 PM writes...

"And they will spread the message to policymakers, governments and other interested parties, in an effort to stop them making decisions on the basis of flaky studies"

Sounds optimistic, since the decision is typically made first, then the literature scoured for supporting studies, however flaky.

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12. Neo on March 20, 2014 6:38 AM writes...

Selection of results to fit a hypothesis is unfortunately widespread among prestigious laboratories. This is the main reason for the unreproducibility of studies. Will they really go after the big names and the fancy journals that give them a free pass for years? I doubt it. And even if they did, I can see big-shoot-scientist X blaming the PhD/postdoc that carry out the experiments. As if they didn't know...

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13. Chemiae on March 20, 2014 10:57 PM writes...

Mike, dearieme - I'd like to try to open your eyes. Ioannidis' methods are irreproachable, and his is a voice for GOOD science. He is an epidemiologist, that most quantitatively demanding & rigorously scientific species of MD. His 2005 'Why Most Published Research Findings Are False' generated essentially NO press, and he only resorted to an incendiary title after years of un-provacitive ones generated no interest at all, public or otherwise. An excellent article (urge EVERYONE to read it - Derek's devotees, a top slice of the curious, especially need to know about Ioannidis' pioneering studies, whether you start from doubting his soundness or just like testing your personal cognitive dissonance) appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 2010 but remains spot-on relevant: Ioannidis' work did get a dribble of press in 2011 when he got 'branded,' i.e. he moved from a Greek medical school to Stanford's. Ioannidis' new institute at Stanford is just a start. It will be vastly difficult to change the minds of a lazy public that really only wants better pills. A public that demands greater scientific accountability is, sadly, beyond imagining. And meanwhile pharma will use its awesome resources to fight back. As it is now, MDs are pharma's hostages, politicians' loyally bark in tune with pharma's PACs, and many med school luminaries who 'author' clinical studies pocket >$1million/year. BTW, only The Economist (and, via it, our estimable Corante) have picked up on Stanford's news release at the time of this writing. The response has been underwhelming.

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