October 29, 2013
Science has lost its way, at a big cost to humanity
In today's world, brimful as it is with opinion and falsehoods masquerading as facts, you'd think the one place you can depend on for verifiable facts is science.
Posted by Jim Zellmer at October 29, 2013 12:35 AM
You'd be wrong. Many billions of dollars' worth of wrong.
A few years ago, scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology.
The idea was to make sure that research on which Amgen was spending millions of development dollars still held up. They figured that a few of the studies would fail the test -- that the original results couldn't be reproduced because the findings were especially novel or described fresh therapeutic approaches.
But what they found was startling: Of the 53 landmark papers, only six could be proved valid.
"Even knowing the limitations of preclinical research," observed C. Glenn Begley, then Amgen's head of global cancer research, "this was a shocking result."
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Silly article. Some aspects of science or researchers have perhaps lost their way, but only the public (I hope) would believe that merely because an article is published in some journal it becomes a statement of scientific truth.
I don't believe either the journals Science or Nature who are specifically mentioned, hold that view. I don't know what criteria these journals require to meet their editorial standards, but I would suggest that quality journals would require peer review, and enough detail for the studies to be replicated.
Passing peer review and editorial oversight itself would not say that the results are scientifically true. They look for 1) appropriate citations, 2) appropriate summaries of the results from research cited, 3) understandable to audience, 4) additional citations required, 5) standard word-smithing.
I can't believe anyone would believe that an article published in any journal would be considered the last word on the topic. Progress in science has never worked that way, and never will.