Why Most Published Research Findings Are False - Dr. Carolyn Dean MD ND

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

October 30, 2017

I am totally in love with this paper published in the PLOS Medicine journal back in 2005. Here is what I wrote about the paper in Death by Modern Medicine (2014):

John Ioannidis wrote about the false findings in the majority of published research claims. He makes the incredible statement that “It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false.” Here is the summary of his paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings are False,” which you can read on PLoS, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science:

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field.

In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance.

Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.

My litany continues:

Medical Ethics and Conflict of Interest in Scientific Medicine

Dr. Marcia Angell asks whether academic medicine is for sale in her 2004 book, The Truth about the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do. Jonathan Quick, Director of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy for the World Health Organization, wrote in a recent WHO Bulletin: “If clinical trials become a commercial venture in which self-interest overrules public interest and desire overrules science, then the social contract which allows research on human subjects in return for medical advances is broken.”

“Science Has Lost Its Way, At A Big Cost To Humanity” is the title of an article in the October 27, 2013 LA Times. The byline sets the stage. “Researchers are rewarded for splashy findings, not for double-checking accuracy. So many scientists looking for cures to diseases have been building on ideas that aren’t even true.”

The LA Times reports that most scientific research is false. A few years ago, scientists at the biotech firm Amgen analyzed the results of 53 landmark papers in cancer research and blood biology that Amgen was investing in. Of the 53 landmark papers evaluated, only 6 papers, or 11%, proved valid.

What is the take-home message here? Medicine and drug companies are in the business of making a profit, not health, leaving you responsible for your own health and your own health care. My aim is to Educate, Not Medicate.


Carolyn Dean MD ND

The Doctor of the Future®

RESOURCES: Along the borders and in the links of my web site you can find my books, writings, and my call-in radio show. Email your questions to: questions@drcarolyndeanlive.com.

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