What is medicine's 5 sigma? by Lancet Chief Editor Richard Horton
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of The Lancet (One of the world's top medical journals)
Posted: May 31st, 2015
[A] symposium – on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research, held at the Wellcome Trust in London last week – touched on one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong. The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics. National assessment procedures ... incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct. Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivised to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivised to be productive. The conclusion of the symposium was that something must be done. The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously. The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system.
Note: The Lancet is considered by many to be the most prestigious medical journal in the world. If the editor-in-chief of the Lancet is making these comments, who can we trust? Can we really "trust the science?" Read a powerfully revealing essay by former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine Marcia Angell on how the drug companies blatantly manipulate science for profit.