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US Science: It's not about the money, it's the money
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US Science: It's not about the money, it's the money - April 10, 2012, 01:38 PM

It's not about finding cures for disease anymore. It certainly isn't about truth or reproducibility. Get the money by any means, including publishing bullshit results.

Summary here.


Full article PDF attached.
"Over the past decade, before pursuing a particular line of research, scientists (including C.G.B.) in the haematology and oncology department at the biotechnology firm Amgen in Thousand Oaks, California, tried to confirm published findings related to that work. Fifty-three papers were deemed ‘landmark’ studies (see ‘Reproducibility of research findings’). It was acknowledged from the outset that some of the data might not hold up, because papers were deliberately selected that described something completely new, such as fresh approaches to targeting cancers or alternative clinical uses for existing therapeutics. Nevertheless, scientific findings were confirmed in only 6 (11%) cases. Even knowing the limitations of preclinical research, this was a shocking result.
"Some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis. More troubling, some of the research has triggered a series of clinical studies — suggesting that many patients had subjected themselves to a trial of a regimen or agent that probably wouldn’t work.
When the news media finally gets around to describing how abysmal US science has become in recent years, remember this thread.
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April 10, 2012, 01:54 PM

Man, that's pretty sad. I hope they do something about it before it gets too out of hand.


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April 10, 2012, 02:00 PM

Well funding paylines are at about 7% so 93% or so of all proposed research today is unfunded and therefore, not conducted. That's one way to solve the problem, just kill the whole enterprise. That's not how I would do it, but that's what's happening.

This is a logical outworking too of the philosophy in US science of "publish or perish". You can't get money to do your work unless you publish as many papers as you can. It doesn't matter really if the results are irrelevant, meaningless, or even pure bunk. Mostly what matters is a long list of publications about something, in any crap journal.


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April 10, 2012, 02:19 PM

Unfortunately I get the impression that grantors are increasingly risk adverse too. And like you say, it's hard for a research group to stay in business when people aren't willing to fund much besides the projects most likely to "go big," as measured by the number of publications and/or high throughput hits. And that can push a lot of potential avenues to curing sick people to the wayside.

Perhaps it's always been that way. I'm new to the game.


edit - great article also, put a little more thought into what I was trying to say.


*Not intended to be a factual statement.

Last edited by Rail; April 10, 2012 at 06:02 PM..
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April 10, 2012, 08:13 PM

Problem lies in the publishing has to happen to allow patents on machinery/techniques/products so the investors get money. Its either falsify and make $ or die.
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April 10, 2012, 09:17 PM

It's a viscous cycle that encompasses every single aspect of business and industry. We call for responsible big businesses but lets imagine this: somebody that actually wants the best for the public starts an insurance company and chooses that his company could thrive with a modest profit margin and would like to pass on the savings to their customers. The free market and pure competition principle given to us by Adam Smith says that given that good service is included, the masses will flock to this company and force all others to follow suit. The problem is that to be able to grow a company, financing is a must. This is where the world of money comes into play. Investors only look at who has the largest profit margins not who provides the best service.

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April 10, 2012, 10:19 PM

I know secondhand how difficult it is to obtain funding for the sciences... specifically Neurobiology. Both my sister and brother-in-law are researchers in New York City... a big pharm sponsorship seems to be all researchers dreams... government funding is a drop in the bucket.

Many labs struggle just to keep the lights on... I was also appalled by how little they make for the work that they do.

When you're placed in a situation like this, it's no wonder that many of the papers are crap. Quantity, not quality is what the market wants, so that's what it gets.
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April 10, 2012, 11:18 PM

Sad but true.. this is also the reason why people have stopped/ scared to venture into basic research of fundamentals since there is high risk of failure .. you will have show some link between your research and the areas which are highly funded, energy, cancer etc


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April 11, 2012, 08:39 AM

Where the paper is published also plays a huge role. My first publication in surgical techniques in high school was in the Romanian Journal of Plastic Surgery. That's right, Romania. They were the only group interested in talking to me. There are plenty of periphery groups out there that will publish anything which accounts for a lot of publishing. Realistically, my new technique was mainly an adaptation of my mentor's and really only worked for southpaws. It was not literature worthy.

A lot of the "Ground Breaking Research" gets published in rags like Science and Nature. Check out nature's description on a google search "An international journal, published weekly, with original, groundbreaking research spanning all of the scientific disciplines." It's crazy how they can find groundbreaking research on a weekly basis. Take anything from here with a grain of salt.

Of course, there are still some journals that hold true. Cell, Microbiology, and The American Journal of Plastic Surgery are hard as hell to get published in. Normally it's the "third reviewer" that gets your article kicked from a publication, but every one of the reviewing staff at these institutions are top notch. Consider them the Harvard of their field.

Still it's like a college degree. I'm sure I sound like an elitist fuck, but a guy with a degree from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, CAL Tech etc is going to run circles around a guy with a degree from the University of Phoenix. In any market there's a superior and an inferior product, but due to the publish or perish nature of science mentioned previously, there's a huge market for crappy journals out there that will publish damned near anything.


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