Exaggeration in health science news releases & what were going to do about it.
Longish article delving into reasons for the exaggerations and what can be done.
- “The blame—if it can be meaningfully apportioned—lies mainly with the increasing culture of university competition and self promotion, interacting with the increasing pressures on journalists to do more with less time.”
- “If the majority of exaggeration occurs within academic establishments, then the academic community has the opportunity to make an important difference to the quality of biomedical and health related news.”
- “What we do argue is that appropriate claims are a necessary starting point, that misleading claims can do harm, and that since many such claims originate within universities, the scientific community has the ability to improve this situation.”
From the 28 January 2012 article
Academic publishing is a very good game indeed if you can manage to get into it. As the publisher the work is created at the expense of others, for free to you. There are no advances, no royalties, to pay. The editing, the checking, the decisions about whether to publish, these are all also done for free to you. And the market, that’s every college libarary in the world and they’re very price insensitive indeed….
There’s not much new about this analysis and investors in Reed Elsevier, the owners of Elsevier, either do or should know all of this.
However, there’s something happening that might change this, for Reed Elsevier shareholders, quite delightful position. That is, a revolt of the academics who provide both the papers and the readership.
A start was made by British mathematician Tim Gowers, in a blog post here. That wasn’t the very start, but it looks like one of those pebbles that starts the avalanche rather than the one that just tumbles down the hillside. And there’s a great deal to be said for a scientific post which references Spike Milligan‘s superb book, Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall.
“I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly. I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and that is my main reason for writing this post,”
There is now a petition running for academics to sign up to this, here….
- Could LexisNexis and Thomson Reuter legal publishing model go up in smoke? (kevin.lexblog.com)
- Elsevier Publishing Boycott Gathers Steam Among Academics (chronicle.com)
- Death to Elsevier! (freethoughtblogs.com)
- Death to Elsevier! (scienceblogs.com)
- Boycott Elsevier (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- The cost of knowledge (terrytao.wordpress.com)
- On Elsevier (michaelnielsen.org)
- Scientists Organize Elsevier Boycott (science.slashdot.org)
- Boycott Elsevier (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Elsevier Snapped by Price Elasticity (arnoldit.com)
- The boycott Elsevier movement (marginalrevolution.com)
- Lists of Elsevier journals to boycott (rrresearch.fieldofscience.com)
Many NIH-funded clinical trials go unpublished over two years after completion (with ClinicalTrials.gov link for many trial study results)
[Flahiff’s note: It is possible that many of these unpublished clinical trial results would have made a positive difference in many people’s lives. These unpublished results have the potential of aiding many researchers. They can prevent unnecessary duplicate trials, point to areas needing more research, and potentially provide groundwork for collaboration.
On another note, it is good to see that published research papers are now more accessible to all. As of 2008, research papers based on NIH grants must be submitted to PubMed Central (PMC) when those papers are accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. PMC will then make the papers freely available to the public within 12 months of publication.
I look forward to the day when all research papers are freely available to the public. There are a myriad of issues, as who pays for the publishing, the peer review process, and where the research papers should be “housed”. However, I believe the more scientific research results are disseminated in easily accessible format, the more we can advance in technology applications and filling in knowledge gaps.]
In a study that investigates the challenges of disseminating clinical research findings in peer-reviewed biomedical journals, Yale School of Medicine researchers have found that fewer than half of a sample of trials primarily or partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were published within 30 months of completing the clinical trial.
These findings appear in the January issue of the British Medical Journal, which focuses on the topic of unpublished evidence.
“When research findings are not disseminated, the scientific process is disrupted and leads to redundant efforts and misconceptions about clinical evidence,” said Dr. Joseph Ross, first author of the study and a Yale assistant professor of medicine. “Such inaction undermines both the trial in question and the evidence available in peer-reviewed medical literature. This has far-reaching implications for policy decisions, and even institutional review board assessments of risks and benefits associated with future research studies.”…
Ross said that there may be many reasons for lack of publication, such as not getting accepted by a journal or not prioritizing the dissemination of research findings. Still, he said, there are alternative methods for providing timely public access to study results, including the results database at ClinicalTrials.gov** that was created in response to Federal law.
[From the About Page at Clinical Trials.gov
US Public Law 110-85 (Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 or FDAAA), Title VIII, Section 801 mandates that a “responsible party” (i.e., the study sponsor or designated principal investigator) register and report results of certain “applicable clinical trials” that were initiated or ongoing as of September 27, 2007…]
ClinicalTrials.gov offers up-to-date information for locating federally and privately supported clinical trials for a wide range of diseases and conditions.
ClinicalTrials.gov currently contains 118,682 trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, other federal agencies, and private industry.
**Here is how one can check for study results
(remember, researchers are not mandated to submit study results to ClinicalTrials.gov, they are voluntary)
ClinicalTrials.gov records with published results listed via the PubMed medical literature search service.
- Use the Advanced Search with the search phrase clinicaltrials.gov[si]
Use the Builder limit results by topics (as a disease, medical device), year(s), name of researcher/invesitator)
- Need help searching? PubMed has tutorials , including a YouTube at the Advanced Search Page
Ask for assistance from a reference librarian at your local public, academic, hospital, or medical library.
Many academic, hospital, and medical libraries offer at least basic search help to all. Call ahead and ask
about their services. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- Many NIH-funded clinical trials go unpublished over 2 years after completion (eurekalert.org)
- The White House Calls for Information on Public Access to Publications and Data (The Scholarly Kitchen)
- How to obtain free/low cost medical and scientific articles(jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- Patients want to understand the medical literature (with links to resources for patients) (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- Missing trial data threatens the integrity of medicine (eurekalert.org)
- Poor patient recruitment cited in call for trial disclosures (fiercebiotechit.com)
- A Present for NIH: President Signs Law Creating New Translational Center (news.sciencemag.org)
- NIH and Non-profits Sign Research and Development Agreement (kauffman.org)
- NIH establishes National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
The White House Calls for Information on Public Access to Publications and Data « The Scholarly Kitchen
From the blog article at the Scholarly Kitchen
f you’re reading this blog, you likely have an opinion aboutopen access to journal articles and research results. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has put out two formal Requests for Information; one on the subject of “Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications” and the other on “Public Access to Digital Data.”
While most of us enjoy the seemingly endless back and forth discussion online (or ranting and raving, as the case may be), this is a chance for all stakeholders to have a direct influence where it matters most. The White House is crafting requirements for recipients of federal research funding and the information received here will be crucial to setting policy.
There are two separate issues here, public access to journal articles from federally-funded research, and the tricky question of how to make the most of the raw data collected in those federally-funded experiments….
From the 22 November 2011 article
A computer system that can read scientific papers in a similar way to humans promises breakthroughs in cancer research, according to Cambridge scientists.
By Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent
Called CRAB, the system is able to trawl through millions of peer-reviewed articles for clues to the causes of tumours. Already, it has uncovered a potential reason why some chemicals induce pancreatic cancer only in men.
CRAB is the latest implementation of a rapidly-emerging form of artificial intelligence called natural language processing, which is also used in the Siri personal assistant software in the iPhone 4S. It allows computers to read texts and derive meaning from them, despite their complexity and abiguities, as humans do.
The system will first be used to assess the risk that new chemicals could cause cancer.
“The first stage of any risk assessment is a literature review. It’s a major bottleneck,” said Dr Anna Korhonen of the University of Cambridge, who led the development of CRAB.
“There could be tens of thousands of articles for a single chemical. Performed manually, it’s expensive and, because of the rising number of publications, it’s becoming too challenging to manage,” she said.
- Computer that reads raises hope for cancer breakthroughs (news.bioscholar.com)
- Computer that can read promises cancer breakthroughs (telegraph.co.uk)
An excellent review in the latest JMLA:
The paper reviews recent studies that evaluate the impact of free access (open access) on the behavior of scientists as authors, readers, and citers in developed and developing nations. (…)
- Researchers report that their access to the scientific literature is generally good and improving (76% of researchers think that it is better now than 5 years ago)
- Publishers (Elsevier and Oxford UP) reveal an increase in the number of journals available at a typical university and an even larger increase in the article downloads
- For authors, the access status of a journal is not an important consideration when deciding where to publish (journal reputation is stronger)
- The high cost of Western scientific journals poses a major barrier to researchers in developing nations
- There is clear evidence that free access increases the number of article downloads, although its impact on article citations is not clear
- Recent studies provide little evidence to support the idea that there is a crisis in access to the scholarly literature
- Author’s resistance to publication fees is a major barrier to greater participation in open access initiatives
- The empowerment of health care consumers through universal access to original research has ben cited as a key benefit of free access to the scientific literature
- overall, the published evidence does not indicate how (or whether) free access to the scientific literature influences consumers’ reading or behavior
- current research reveals no evidence of unmet demand for the primary medical or health sciences literature among the general public
- most research on access to the scientific literature assumes a traditional and hierarchical flow of information from the publisher to the eader, with the library often serving ans an intermediary betwwen the two. Very little has been done to investigate alternative routes of access to the scientific literature
Davis, Philip M. & Walters, William H. The impact of free access to the scientific literature: a review of recent research. J Med Libr Assoc 99(3):208-17 (2011).
- How to obtain free/low cost medical articles in medical and scientific journals
- “Summaries for Patients” and other plain language summaries help patients and others understand medical studies and guidelines
- Challenging the Access Crisis (scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org)
- Peter Suber, Open Access Overview (definition, introduction) (earlham.edu)
- Do we need an alternative to peer-reviewed journals? (arstechnica.com)
- Science Longevity Paper Retracted (news.sciencemag.org)
- How the quality of the scientific literature impacts the evidence (kevinmd.com)
- Should scientific articles be available free online? (slate.com)