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Most Scientific Findings Are Wrong or Useless 8/26/16 by Ron Bailey) “Science isn’t self-correcting,

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by *GG*, Aug 26, 2016.

  1. *GG*

    *GG* Senior Member

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    (Not the 1st time we see this reported in this publication, never mind all the others!).

    “Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing.”

    "Science, the pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble." So begins "Saving Science," an incisive and deeply disturbing essay by Daniel Sarewitz at The New Atlantis. As evidence, Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University's School for Future Innovation and Society, points to reams of mistaken or simply useless research findings that have been generated over the past decades.

    Sarewitz cites several examples of bad science that I reported in my February article "Broken Science." These include a major biotech company's finding in 2012 that only six out of 53 landmark published preclinical cancer studies could be replicated. Researchers at a leading pharmaceutical company reported that they could not replicate 43 of the 67 published preclinical studies that the company had been relying on to develop cancer and cardiovascular treatments and diagnostics. In 2015, only about a third of 100 psychological studies published in three leading psychology journals could be adequately replicated.

    A 2015 editorial in The Lancet observed that "much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue." A 2015 British Academy of Medical Sciences report suggested that the false discovery rate in some areas of biomedicine could be as high as 69 percent. In an email exchange with me, the Stanford biostatistician John Ioannidis estimated that the non-replication rates in biomedical observational and preclinical studies could be as high as 90 percent.

    Sarewitz also notes that 1,000 peer-reviewed and published breast cancer research studies turned out to be using a skin cancer cell line instead. Furthermore, when amyotrophic lateral sclerosis researchers tested more than 100 potential drugs reported to slow disease progression in mouse models, none were found to be beneficial when tested on the same mouse strains. A 2016 article suggested that fMRI brain imaging studies suffered from a 70 percent false positive rate. Sarewitz also notes that decades of nutritional dogma about the alleged health dangers of salt, fats, and red meat appears to be wrong.

    cont'd

    http://reason.com/archives/2016/08/26/most-scientific-results-are-wrong-or-use
     
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  2. Sean

    Sean Senior Member

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    Dammit! Somebody owes me a new irony meter. :rolleyes:
     
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  3. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Science is definitely not self correcting. It can self correct, but that takes vigilance and effort. Its not automatic. Science in the service of widgits, and that includes drugs, is subject to distortion by financial interests. I strongly suspect that science in the services of political or social ideology has similar issues with distortion.

    Replication also does not prove something is right. Replication of flawed studies just give you another flawed study. A meta-analysis of flawed studies may just give you a giant flawed result. Scientists have to be smarter than that. One problem though, and we know this from issues in grants for CFS and ME research, is that grant reviewers, just like publication reviewers, also have to be smart. Dogma does not serve science. Nor does ignorance.

    Either science is based on reason and evidence, and by reason I include mathematical reasoning, or its not science. Science has to be able to be challenged, or its not science. Science needs to be open to facilitate this.

    Nutritional dogma is currently under significant challenge. I am hoping that in time we can sort it out. Not all of nutritional claims are under challenge though.

    One thing I always like to see is large scale empirical support for theoretical claims, and I even more like to see ways to challenge theory to see if it holds up. When vested interests try to justify theory by amassing data in support then its frequently subject to distortion. When "scientific" claims are defended by irrational rhetoric without sound evidence then I get worried about those claims.
     
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  4. ahmo

    ahmo Senior Member

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    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Keela Too

    Keela Too Sally Burch

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    From lower down in the article:

    "He wants end-user constituencies—patient advocacy groups, environmental organizations, military planners—outside of academia to have a much bigger say in setting the goals for publicly funded research. "The questions you ask are likely to be very different if your end goal is to solve a concrete problem, rather than only to advance understanding, he argues."

    My thought: Agenda-driven "science" is strong reason for invested researchers to exclude the "end-user constituencies" mentioned.
     
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  6. Groggy Doggy

    Groggy Doggy Senior Member

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    I find 'big data' to be arrogant, hence agree with the paragraph below. Some use the terminology in a way that infers massive amounts of information will solve our problems. We live in an age of scientific data "over abundance", while at the same time suffer from major health problems such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

    "The advent of big data also worries Sarewitz. Dredging massive new datasets generated by an already badly flawed research enterprise will produce huge numbers of meaningless correlations. Since the integrity of the output is dependent on the integrity of input, big data science risks generating a flood of instances of garbage in, garbage out, or GIGO. Sarewitz warns, "The scientific community and its supporters are now busily creating the infrastructure and the expectations that can make unreliability, knowledge chaos, and multiple conflicting truths the essence of science's legacy.""
     
  7. BruceInOz

    BruceInOz Senior Member

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    I don't agree with this. Often science makes progress by studying things that don't appear to have any immediately useful goal. At one time quantum mechanics seemed an esoteric indulgence with no useful purpose. But it gave us all the solid state computing devices that are so much a part of our lives today. If you restrict science to only solving identified problems you may miss a discovery that will lead to the solution to that problem in a way that never would have been imagined otherwise. That doesn't mean there is not a problem in some science at the moment. I just don't think this is the solution.
     
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  8. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Agenda-driven science is a big part of the problem.

    Big data does not create answers. It creates questions, aka hypotheses. Its very very valuable in large complex domains where you don't know what is going on. Those hypotheses still have to be tested by more conventional means though.

    Similar issues occur with any model/hypothesis/theory that is represented as fact.

    One common denominator is unsound reasoning. Another is over-interpretation of data, but again that is unsound reasoning.

    In terms of medical research, an important thing to know is what happens in the real world, especially objective outcomes. However doing research to fit objective outcomes can also lead to distortions, especially if you choose inappropriate objective outcomes.

    Things I want to know in medical outcomes include mean and median survival time, percentage returning to full time work or study or equivalent, and requirement for ongoing medical care. Functional capacity also needs to be objectively assessed. Subjective assessment can nuance objective assessment, but does not replace it.

    In evidence based medicine the effect size is very important. Statistical significance means little if the effect size is low.
     
  9. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Rebel without a biscuit

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    I tweeted this article with a 'hey, imagine using science to solve problems' (or something similar) positive comment. Serendipity can be important in finding those solutions.

    I agree with the thoughts above and have to wonder what my brain is doing sometimes. It was clearly past it's daily expiry date. :confused: :rolleyes:
     
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  10. *GG*

    *GG* Senior Member

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    Well, said always appreciate your writings :)

    GG
     
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