In the field of biodefense, I hear conflicting claims about various scientific issues. Being a non-scientist/non-physician, I had assumed this was in part due to the lack of significant research during the past 40 years. After reading the November issue of The Atlantic and the story about Dr. John Ioannidi, I discovered the problem is not exclusive to the field of biodefense.
Like many others, I sometimes question the results of “new medical discoveries”, particularly when they suggest I can’t eat one of my favorite foods, but I had not realized the extent of this problem within the medical science community.
Here is a short excerpt from the article. I suggest you click on the link below to read the entire article. As for me, I am going out for a cheeseburger.
“He zoomed in on 49 of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the previous 13 years, as judged by the science community’s two standard measures: the papers had appeared in the journals most widely cited in research articles, and the 49 articles themselves were the most widely cited articles in these journals. These were articles that helped lead to the widespread popularity of treatments such as the use of hormone-replacement therapy for menopausal women, vitamin E to reduce the risk of heart disease, coronary stents to ward off heart attacks, and daily low-dose aspirin to control blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Ioannidis was putting his contentions to the test not against run-of-the-mill research, or even merely well-accepted research, but against the absolute tip of the research pyramid. Of the 49 articles, 45 claimed to have uncovered effective interventions. Thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or significantly exaggerated. If between a third and a half of the most acclaimed research in medicine was proving untrustworthy, the scope and impact of the problem were undeniable.”
John P. A. Ioannidis is a professor and chairman at the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Ioannina School of Medicine as well as tenured adjunct professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine.
If you missed this recent article in the New York Times, it is also worth reading.