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James Coyne: Shhh! Keeping quiet about the sad state of...

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Esther12, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    This blog post from James Coyne focuses on couples therapy for cancer patients, but some of the themes sounded rather familiar:

    Some of the problems he was describing were even worse that that normally found in CFS work. Things like this ring a bell though:

    There's a section under the sub-heading 'The sandbagging' which mentions 'Hedges’ g' as a (perhaps flawed) way in which meta-analyses can try to account for the problem of small studies showing big positive affects while large studies are negative or show small positive affects - he mainly talks about the politics of this, but the statistical technique could also be interesting to some here. Using small studies to justify big claims is certainly a problem with CFS work, and seems a common problem in psychiatry - the results from PACE and FINE seem much more realistic, and it is only the spin which has allowed them to claim any consistency with past results.
    http://blogs.plos.org/mindthebrain/...s-interventions-for-cancer-patients-research/

    I just cannot get my expectations low enough for academia. I'm so cynical about it all now... but am still regularly disappointed. At 20, I thought trusting expert academics was the intelligent thing to do, and was somewhat sneering about what I saw as anti-intellectualism amongst many of my peers. Actually, they just had a much more realistic view of the human and political nature of academia. Seeing James Coyne struggling to get his criticisms published is partially cheering (at least it's not just CFS), partially terrifying (it's not just CFS).
    Dolphin, WillowJ and Kati like this.
  2. Simon

    Simon

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    I can't imagine that James Coyne gets invited to many psychologist's parties.
    :) One reason I think conspiracy theories of CFS are overstated: mediocre research, and fields where strongly held views crowd out sound criticism, abound.

    Hedges' g (a slight tweek of Cohen's d) is a perfectly good statistical technique, the problem is, as Coyne points out, if you have a meta-analysis where small studies dominate, Hedge's g won't guarantee a reliable answer because there are so many problems with small studies (notably likely publication bias where small negative studies never see the light of day).

    An interesting point.
  3. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    A conspiracy without knowing conspirators.

    I've found a lot of Noam Chomsky's writing on manufacturing consent to be relevant to this sort of thing. It's annoying to remember myself at 18 being rather dismissive of concerns about this sort of thing, and assuming that academia was a place where people were motivated solely by a desire to pursue truth (other than the minority of evil ones who could be easily spotted).

    I was a bit unsure about that. Surely intellectually honest academics could, without difficulty say something like "unfortunately this work shares the same limitations as this earlier study, and is unable to contribute much to our understanding." Especially as it seems that loads of rubbish studies do mention their failings. I think that turning a blind eye to these things does indicate a desire to mislead, rather than just avoid drawing attention to the problems with ones own work.
  4. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    I have made similar comments about narrow fields of research like cbt and psychogenic medicine - where is a truly independent expert going to come from for peer review? It is good to be seeing comments like this though: I hope this continues until medicine undergoes a complete paradigm shift. It might happen. :cautious:
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  5. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

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    I've heard some people say we don't need psychologists doing any sort of research. However, I don't think that's realistic as one gets psychological studies with probably all medical conditions (that are not very rare). Surveys and the like can be so easy and cheap to do that I don't see them disappearing. In that scenario, I think it's important to have some sympathetic psychologists e.g. Leonard Jason and some people he's worked with, who can be introducing new, more sympathetic theories and be involved in peer-reviewing, etc..

    The same effect is one of the many things that motivates me to try to raise money for biomedical research: hopefully that will keep or bring in sympathetic researchers, as there is probably always likely to be some research being done by CBT/GET/rehab-associated researchers who can be biased towards those approaches/against research that challenges that. Somebody like Peter White for example may do the odd biological study but my impression is he thinks we have the answers already (i.e. graded exercise and related ideas on the theme), and is largely just looking for evidence that can help promote such theories.
  6. user9876

    user9876 Senior Member

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    Here is an example of a reviewer pushing their own views

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1169912504863162_comment.pdf

  7. Sean

    Sean Senior Member

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    That is pretty blatant bias.
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  8. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

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