Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Unbiased Research

As scientist we are taught that the scientific method is the key to success, but the constant pressure of the "publish-or-perish" environment is detrimental to our scientific inquiry. As presented by Dan Ariely we must constantly test our intuitions and question our own data with scrutiny. However, this is not often the case in fact I was surprised that our human nature is to follow a norm of cheating where we "cheat by a little". But surely scientist are different right? We pride ourselves in being an intelligent and self regulating group; furthermore, tax payers expect integrity from our work. Nonetheless, this is not always the case and multiple instances have shown us that some publications are not valid or largely exaggerated. And when the public finds out about these scientific disasters we lose public trust. Since the media largely influences public opinion, I was particularly interested in reading popular media articles.

It is questionable whether the public would be willing to spend $30.1 billion tax dollars annually in funding institutions like the NIH if they find that scientist are unethical, exaggerate results or even create data. Therefore, maintaining public trust through the media is extremely important, as well as constantly training scientist on ethical methods.  As mentioned by The Replication Myth: Shedding Light on One of Science’s Dirty Little Secrets there is much to be learned from science that fails, and that history has proven that the nature of sciences is more complex than expected.  I found the Half of the cancer drugs journalists called "miracles" and "cures" were not approved by the FDA article interesting, because it is a non-scientific article that exposes some of the truths about scientific claims.   When reading buzzed or popular media I often find myself questioning the medical hype articles, but the general population does not. When we deceive the general population with "miracle cures" we create false hopes, which is much more deceiving and goes against the "do no harm" tenant for medicine or seeking the truth of research. As individuals it is important to hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical procedures, but it is important to find other solutions for maintaining integrity in our scientific community.

Ethics seminars could help improve the integrity of our research, because as Dan Ariely discussed when reminded about morality cheating decreased. Other forums like PubPeer also help regulate the scientific community and ensure more regulation of our findings. Even though articles like Why you can't always believe what you read in scientific journals point out our failures they also provide us with regulatory measures and awareness of the importance of unbiased research. 

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