Following my colleague Marissa Fessenden’s entry on the difficulty – and importance – of publishing results from duplicate studies that contradict previous findings, there’s some more news on biases in published research. The current issue of the NIH Record newsletter reports on a recent NIH-sponsored talk that John Ioannidis, MD, DSc, gave on the topic. Among his concerns:
Ioannidis said… editors want to publish research that is novel and will have a large impact on the field, which generally means papers that report very large, statistically significant effects.
At the seminar, Ioannidis outlined other instances of bias and made nine recommendations to improve biomedical research by overcoming these. Registering clinical trials, even if the results are never published, is “one of the best ideas ever to appear in clinical research,” Ioannidis said, and it will ensure the important data won’t get “lost.”
The article concludes:
…Under the weight of the great promises they make, investigators often abandon studies whose results seem uninteresting or selectively report only statistically significant portions of their results.
“We need to move away from the requirement to make big promises,” [Ioannidis] said. “Very little of what we do will be so lucky as to break new ground.” He suggested that instead of funding specific research projects, NIH and other funding bodies should support individual researchers with a track record of excellence. “Maybe we should promise instead just to do our best,” he said.