Why most published research findings are false.
PLoS Med. 2005 Aug;2(8):e124.
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In Search of “Absolute” Truth: Has the Lab Bench Replaced the “Burning at the Stake”?
Once upon a time, there was a null hypothesis to be proved or disproved; nowadays, the null hypothesis (“negative data”) is in danger of extinction just because negative data it is not “sexy” anymore. Through “six degrees of Medline,” all null hypotheses can now be disproved. It is simply a matter of spending sufficient time in front of the PubMed website. In “Why most published research findings are false,” John Ioannidis makes an eloquent presentation of the major pitfalls, statistical and otherwise, that twenty-first-century science is facing. To this end, it seems like scientific objectivity is quickly becoming convoluted by financial, professional, and personal subjectivities that make veridical reports be an increasingly seldom occurrence.
This is not specific to Alzheimer research. However, these less-than-ethical practices are no secret to anyone in the field and are often common occurrences in our scientific lives. Yet we all seem to get on with it. So the question is, “Is this really the pressure of twenty-first-century science or simply human nature?” Today, data contradicting a prevalent dogma are shushed through peer-review and denial of funding. Small-sample findings are manipulated and exploited as absolute truths to gain professionally, financially, or simply personally. A few centuries back, individuals with nonconformist ideas were burnt at the stake or incarcerated for heresy, and the beliefs of a few were forced on the masses, also for personal, professional, or financial gain. However, despite these narrow-minded and selfish tendencies, which are intrinsic to human nature, science seems to move ahead, with amazing medical and scientific breakthroughs occurring every day. So, could it be that perhaps a chaotic, substandard media is necessary for truly inspirational science to evolve?