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EditorialsUp Front 09/05

Up Front 09/05

It is often said that a little scepticism can be a good thing. The Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource, recently highlighted the fact that we really shouldn’t believe everything we read. According to John Ioannidis, a researcher at the Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, most published research findings may be false. One of the factors he cites in his paper is that financial and other interests and prejudices can lead to untrue results. The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Conflicts of interest and prejudice may increase bias, and according to the report, conflicts of interest are very common in biomedical research. Also, ‘the hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true,’ which may explain why we sometimes see ‘major excitement followed rapidly by severe disappointments in fields that draw wide attention.’ To anyone who has worked at the higher levels of the corporate ladder this is not rocket science – some call it spin and in the pursuit of market share, be it business or government, skewed research findings have become an acceptable weapon. My extra sceptical friend down the road, however, is not fooled by Mr Ioannidis’s findings – he thinks we should take them with a pinch of salt.

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