Problems with research

My background is very academic – and I am very pro-science. However, I am frequently dismayed at what passes as science today. I feel the ideals of science, pushing forward our knowledge, awareness, understanding and consiousness, have too often been sidelined in favour of a continuation of the ‘status quo’ in our way of thinking. The prevailing paradigm simply becomes perpetuated. Whilst the ideals of science may be wonderful, the actual practice of it in the real world is highly problematic.

The problem with research

Two key themes I want to discuss are:

  • Bias in science and research, the financial factor
  • Inadequate methodologies for holistic medicine
  • Bias in the analysis, reporting and the publicising of research

One key problem with research is bias. In the field of medical research this bias can often have financial undertones, since research is often geared towards developing a drug. At its worse, such bias leads to a situation where research, and the language of science, is used as a rhetorical tool to sell products and promote a certain way of thinking about disease (and even to create ‘new diseases’). The BMJ published a wonderful issue in 2003 on pharmaceutical-physician entanglement or an overview.

For more on science as rhetoric follow this link.

Bias can occur at every step in the process of research, I’ve included some research links at the bottom as reference to real-life examples:

  • Bias in the choice of research that is done – and equally research that is not done. Researchers may tend to be overly cautious and conservative for fear of the money flow stopping.
  • Bias in the choice of which research to pursue – and which to ‘shelve’
  • Bias in the choice of which research to publish – and which to file.
  • Bias in the choice of which research gets published.
  • Bias in how published research is interpreted.
  • Bias in how powerful a PR company you have and how much money you can invest in promoting your research. (Pharmaceuticals spend more on PR than research)

If you are trying to create a financially viable product (i.e. patentable drug), that intention can not help but inextricably ‘implant’ itself into the process of research. Whilst some might innocently think that the DBPCT methodology takes cares of this, to believe this is to miss all the other stages where bias can come in.

NB It can cost in the region of 1 Billion dollars to develop and promote a successful drug

OPEN REQUEST: If anyone wants to give me 1 Billion dollars to research Stinging nettle I would accept gratefully – I do love nettles… number on contacts page, don’t be shy.

Some research links to Conflicts of interest in cancer resarch, Publication bias

Conclusion of one paper: ‘Industry employees are appearing as coauthors of clinical trial publications with increasing frequency’.

Bias in statin research.

And of another ‘Conclusions in trials funded by for-profit organizations may be more positive due to biased interpretation of trial results’.

Multiple sources of bias identified in trials for antipsychotics.