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Stanford University School of Medicine

Taking the brakes off science

A team of experts on how science works has issued a set of policies that could help accelerate science. Their article appears in the brand new scientific journal Nature Human Behavior.

Anyone who has been waiting decades for President Nixon’s 1970s-era War on Cancer to "cure cancer" appreciates that science sometimes seems to proceed at a snail’s pace. As I explained in an article today:

Each year, the U.S. government spends nearly $70 billion on nondefense research and development, including a budget of more than $30 billion for the National Institutes of Health. Yet research on how science is conducted — so-called meta-research — has made clear that a substantial number of published scientific papers fail to move science forward.

In fact, one analysis estimated that as much as 85 percent of biomedical research may be wasted effort. Doing science with such impediments is like driving with the brakes on.

Enter a group of experts on meta-research with a “manifesto” for better and faster science. Led by John Ioannidis, MD, Dsc, director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford, the group's list of best practices for science is comprehensive. And it’s not just a list of principles for individual scientists to adhere to. Research institutions, public and private funding agencies, scientific journals and regulatory agencies all need to work together to make science better, say the authors.

The ultimate goal, says Ioannidis is not only to get closer to the truth but to get there faster. Explaining the manifesto, he said:

All these measures are intended to expedite the process of validation — the circle of generating, testing and validating or refuting hypotheses in the scientific machine.

Previously: Research transparency depends on sharing computational tools, says John IoannidisStanford’s John Ioannidis on “underperforming big ideas”Clinical research’s flaws highlighted by Stanford’s John Ioannidis and On communicating science and uncertainty: A podcast with John Ioannidis
Photo by Leszek Leszczynski

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