Half Of All Published ‘Scientific’ Literature Is Completely Fabricated Or False
These charges have now been corroborated by Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the world’s best known medical journal, The Lancet. Dr. Horton has publicly stated that as much as half of the scientific literature being published is unreliable and often completely false.From a commentary by Dr. Horton published in The Lancet:
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.“
Those are very strong words, particularly since they came directly from the horse’s mouth. For someone in Dr. Horton’s position to make such statements is indeed compelling evidence that (in his words): “Something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.”
“Peer-Reviewed” Studies no Longer Reliable
According to Dr. Horton, scientists often “sculpt data” to fit a theory or “retrofit hypotheses” to fit the data – even “peer-reviewed” studies published in journals such as The Lancet are no longer reliable.
|“It’s common for many to dismiss a lot of great work by experts and researchers at various institutions around the globe which isn’t “peer-reviewed” and doesn’t appear in a “credible” medical journal, but as we can see, “peer-reviewed” doesn’t really mean much anymore. “Credible” medical journals continue to lose their tenability in the eyes of experts and employees of the journals themselves, like Dr. Horton.“|
Biased Industry-Sponsored Research
Dr. Horton is not the only one among his peers who has been compelled to speak out. Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, has written extensively about corrupt methodology and the influence of industry on scientific research:
|“Clinical trials are also biased through designs for research that are chosen to yield favorable results for sponsors. … In short, it is often possible to make clinical trials come out pretty much any way you want, which is why it’s so important that investigators be truly disinterested in the outcome of their work.”|
There are a number of dirty tricks that are routinely used by industry-sponsored researchers. For instance, by not publishing the results of unfavorable studies, the makers of useless or dangerous drugs often manage to market their products to an unsuspecting public.
In the case of one antidepressant drug – paroxetine – which resulted in a record $3 billion lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline, a dangerous and ineffective medication was prescribed to millions of children before it was revealed to cause an elevated suicide risk.
When legal proceedings uncovered the truth, it was found that GlaxoSmithKline had hidden not only the fact that their product was only slightly more effective than a placebo, but also that it caused suicidal behavior.
Is There a Solution?
It is now clear that publication of spurious or falsified research has become endemic within the research publication community.
Dr. Horton offers some suggestions for restoring integrity to scientific research methodology:
|“Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivised to be right. … Instead of changing incentives, perhaps one could remove incentives altogether. Or insist on replicability statements in grant applications and research papers. Or emphasise collaboration, not competition. Or insist on preregistration of protocols. Or reward better pre and post publication peer review. Or improve research training and mentorship.”|
The bad news, according to Dr. Horton, is that even though “science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously… nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system.”