You or a loved one are sick. A new drug shows promise for treating your condition. But it’s fairly new. Is this drug effective? Safe? Proven?
Our system of studies and trials should answer these questions. But a growing body of evidence says they don’t always.
In fact, the evidence suggests a surprising number of studies depend on results that are faked… researchers who fail to report negative results… and other omissions that skew findings.
Here’s what you need to know…
Up to Half of Scientists Know About Fraud… But It’s Rarely Reported
When scientists talk to other scientists, the stories of phony study results come thick and fast. Input from scientists shows about a quarter of studies may involve faked data, phony results, or important information simply left unreported. One study showed 9 out of 10 scientists were aware of colleagues faking results.
In another survey, about a quarter of researchers admit they’ve committed one of the “top ten” forms of misconduct in reporting a study.
A technician at Duke University was implicated in one shocking case of falsification.
The results of 8 years of scientific research – and $112.8 million in funding – came under a cloud. And that was just at Duke. Another $120.9 in research grants to other labs was also involved.
In the end, the researcher was convicted of embezzlement… and years of environmental research became suspect.
A 2009 study uncovered widespread misconduct in scientific research. About a third of scientists said they knew of colleagues faking data. And three out of four were aware of other types of misconduct.
Ferreting Out Fraud in Medical Research
In 2015, scientists at Stanford University uncovered patterns linked to scientific fraud. Certain words, they found, appear more often in fraudulent papers than in honest ones. Fraudsters also avoid certain other words. And use less precise language.
They discovered fraudulent studies contain about 60 more “jargon” words than honest ones. That may not sound like much… but when you know what to look for, it’s a huge red flag.
This research may become the basis of a computer program to test studies. But it’s probably years away. Meanwhile, we have to depend on surveys and similar research.
For example, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported on a study that reviewed 21 studies. The study found a third of scientists admitted to omitting results that didn’t agree with their earlier work. And two percent said they had changed or invented data to bolster a desired result.
In other words, 1 of every 50 scientists is willing to lie to back the results they want. And about 1 in 3 will omit data if it looks bad.
So, what does this mean to you?
Don’t Fall for Phony Research
If you’re like many of our other readers, you’re interested in the latest health research. But if so much research is suspect, what can you do? It can take years to uncover faked results.
Here are a few simple tips to avoid falling victim…
- Don’t rely on the first or only study on a topic. Until other scientists can duplicate the study, consider the results unproven.
- If a study gets very different results from similar studies, be cautious. Similar research should yield similar results.
- Find out who sponsored the study. Industry-sponsored studies are more likely to suffer from bias than those independently funded. (This bias rarely rises to the level of fraud.)
We like to think of scientists as champions of truth. Most of them probably are. But there are enough bad apples, you need to be careful. You don’t want to trust your health to phony science.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
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Fanelli, D. “How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data,” PLoS ONE. 2009; 4(5): e5738.
Carey, B., “Stanford researchers uncover patterns in howscientists lie about their data,” Nov 16, 2015.
Alleyne, R., “Scientists faking results and omitting unwanted findings in research,” The Telegraph. Jun 4, 2009.
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