Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Reliable is Science Research?

Anyone interested in science research might be interested in this blogpost.

It points out the flaws and unconsious biases found even in academic research. I think it's always interesting to see things from a different point of view, and this is a point of view of someone who has actually worked in Big Pharma.

Among other things, he says, "Moreover, since academic success is determined almost exclusively by the number and prestige of research publications. . . " When I was an undergraduate, I spent a year studying "Zoologie" at a German university.

One lab instructor had spent several years working as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. He said he wrote up his research in order to publish a paper, and his lab leader told him no, he shouldn't write just one paper. He should break it up into five different papers, so he could have more publications on his resume.

He also says, ". . . many researchers tend to pursue the trendiest technologies and explore topics that happen to be associated with the most generous levels of research support." I agree with that too. When I was in grad school, the trendy topic was molecular biology, especially something called "phage lambda."

I was more interested in oddball things no one else was interested in. I'm now a sheep farmer and some of the people following trendy topics have Nobel Prizes and prestigious academic positions, which suggests that following trendy avenues of research does pay off.

In that respect, those of us with diabetes are "lucky," because diabetes research is now pretty trendy. Very few people are doing research on obscure diseases that only affect a few people.

We may distrust Big Pharma, which wants to find new drugs they can sell us at high prices, but at least in the process of looking for new pathways that would be responsive to drugs, they're learning more about how diabetes works.

It's a very complex disease, and as one commenter to the Washington Post piece noted, "Many questions in health, behavioral and environmental sciences (e.g.) are so complex - specifically multidimensional - that meaningful measurement is phenomenally difficult."

There will be a cure for diabetes some day. We just don't know when that will be.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Gretchen has a new blog, that works properly (your Health Central one became immensely slow, I don't know if the server was overloaded or if I was blocking some tracking cookie and it was having to look up my great grandmother's maiden name and my shoe size before letting me in)

    One of the saddest things about diabetes research is the number of people I've met who have been turned down for studies because their control was too good.

    Obviously if you're a pharmaceuticals manufacturer you're going to have little interest in people who can maintain good numbers without requiring your product. You need to study people with A1cs of 8.5% and up so you can demonstrate a reduction to 7.5%.

    Why aren't the diabetes charities studying people who *already* have good control and looking to see how they achieved it?

    Oh, wait a minute, apart from the pharmaceutical manufacturers they are also sponsored by carb pushers, and most of the controlled diabetics aren't buying many of their products either.