Poor, Poor Scientists
With these massive rigid systems that scientists must undergo for their livelihood, scientists put massive amounts of value in publication. As innovation comes directly from the scientists, they are put under massive amounts of pressure for publishing. This pressure to publish has directly resulted in the overflowing publication rates that seem to have no end. Thus, a large portion of studies is only partial truths due to the many different biases they are forced to undergo through, intentionally or not. The reason why there is so much potential for bias is due to the fractured system that scientific studies are based off.
Due to the emphasis on quantity over quality for both payments and value, scientists are more inclined to not publish the full potential of what studies could have achieved. Thus, more and more faulty studies with intriguing, misleading theses start to accumulate. To combat this, replication tests are very valuable as they attempt to retest the study exactly to test the study’s validity. These tests are essentially a fail-safe, where another scientific group that is independent to the original does everything that the study did to see if it produces similar results. Erick Turner from the FDA-also known as the Food and Drug Administration- spoke about the replication tests held in 2008. The FDA retested 74 studies that proved the effectiveness of numerous FDA-registered antidepressants. From the replication tests, they found that 23 of them didn’t even have evidence of publication, which left 51 studies to examine. It was reported that 48 of those 51 studies that were left originally showed positive results, yet when the FDA concluded the replication studies they found that only 38 studies out of the original 74 had positive results, completely disproving studies that were now found to be selling ineffective antidepressants.
If such a test is so valuable to validate incorrect tests, then there should not be so many tests that people can view where the study essentially publishes false claims. Sadly, these faulty studies are unlikely to be corrected as there is no incentive within the scientific community to replicate the tests. Even though the FDA made replication tests, the company is not a good representation of the entirety of the community as the FDA is a government funded organization whose primary focus is to regulate issues such as the biased studies. This occurrence is known as the replication crisis. To make sure that harmful products do not go to the patients and prevent the need for replication tests, organizations such as the FDA place very rigid requirements. However, regulatory associations such as the FDA are simply not enough to keep the influence of drug companies away from scientific studies.
As noted before, the scientists’ payment is incentivized to push the claims of whatever will help their career. If the scientists could sustain themselves using the replication test, researchers would have used these replication tests. However, replications tests carry no monetary value, as they only restate what someone else has stated, so scientists avoid the very test that helps counteract faulty claims. As scientists are only human and will have the tendency to prioritize their own living at the expense of integrity, scientists would rather push a swarming number of theses for money. This phenomenon eliminates the fail-safe that is made to get rid of the faulty studies, which means that the number of studies that are fundamentally lying is going to steadily increase with little resistance.
This phenomenon is very detrimental to the future of science. In the article, “Pressure to ‘Publish or Perish’ May Discourage Innovative Research, UCLA Study Suggests,” author Phil Hampton discusses a study lead by Jacob Foster that measures the risks and innovation studies take and the implications that studies make. Foster found in the fields of biomedicine and chemistry that more than 60% of the studies that were analyzed showed no new connections. This essentially means that innovation is slowly grinding to a halt due to the flawed system. As scientists are fixated with their publications to make a steady income, they will push whatever will gives them the safest income. Even though going with the more innovative idea may result in a breakthrough that will net massive amounts of revenue from publication, there is an even greater chance that the study will not result in a positive study, which would not be beneficial to the scientist. This risk vs reward scenario causes scientists to then make a choice on what they value more, to be put in a textbook or to eat the next day. There, the non-innovative route becomes the favored choice as scientists do not have a safety net that can warrant the risk. Thus, innovation is slowly starting to decrease. This result is one of the worst outcomes, as only innovation causes new leaps and bounds to be made from science. If innovation starting to slow down, science slows down as well.
These issues can be solved by money, so funding from organizations seem to be one of the best solutions. Money being given to the researchers which allow them to remove the restraint of income so better tests are made. However, this harmonious relationship becomes detrimental as both parties benefit too much. A claim from a scientific study is very valuable for a business. The faith people have with how rigid scientific studies are causes people to believe essentially anything a scientific study proves. Thus, companies are willing to invest a lot of money for scientific studies that positively help whatever the company is pushing. This investment would ultimately result in more money for the future. This interest itself causes a cycle that makes this issue worse. A business wants to be able to push their values to gain more money or popularity, so the businesses are more willing to pay money to inevitably reap the benefits. As the business itself pays money for the studies, scientists are more enticed to make a study that proves the business’ value for a better living, giving more and more incentive to produce more or alter claims that prove the value.
This cycle results in countless biased articles that unjustifiably prove the claim of the business that affects the public. Companies such as pharmaceuticals and sport drink companies are repeatedly found in the obvious malpractice. For example, in the study “Association of Funding And Conclusions in Randomized Drug Trials,” Bodil ALs-Nielsen randomly selected 370 random drug trials to see if there was an effect on the result of the test being funded by a non-profit organization or a for-profit organization. With only 16% of the studies recommending the drugs when it was funded by a non-profit organization and 51% of the studies when funded by a for-profit organization, it is painfully obvious to see the effect that funding sources have.
Turner, Erick H. “Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy — NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine. N.p., 17 Jan. 2008. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.
Hampton, Phil. “Pressure to ‘publish or Perish’ May Discourage Innovative Research, UCLA Study Suggests.” UCLA Newsroom. N.p., 08 Oct. 2015. Web. 018 Nov. 2016
Nielsen, MD Bodil. “Association of Funding and Conclusions in Randomized Drug Trials.”Association of Funding and Conclusions in Randomized Drug Trials. The JAMA Network, 20 Aug. 2003. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.