Category Archives: Science/Medicine
Scary news via Slashdot:
The requirement that medical researchers register in detail the methods they intend to use in their clinical trials, both to record their data as well as document their outcomes, caused a significant drop in trials producing positive results. From Nature: “The study found that in a sample of 55 large trials testing heart-disease treatments, 57% of those published before 2000 reported positive effects from the treatments. But that figure plunged to just 8% in studies that were conducted after 2000. Study author Veronica Irvin, a health scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says this suggests that registering clinical studies is leading to more rigorous research. Writing on his NeuroLogica Blog, neurologist Steven Novella of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, called the study “encouraging” but also “a bit frightening” because it casts doubt on previous positive results.”
In other words, before they were required to document their methods, research into new drugs or treatments would prove the success of those drugs or treatment more than half the time. Once they had to document their research methods, however, the drugs or treatments being tested almost never worked.
According to the Nature article, the reason is this:
… by having to state their methods and measurements before starting their trial, researchers cannot then cherry-pick data to find an effect once the study is over. “It’s more difficult for investigators to selectively report some outcomes and exclude others,” …
But is anyone going back to review the last 40 years of studies with positive results? I doubt it.
Best story in today’s paper:
The mystery of Swiss cheese and its disappearing holes has been solved: The milk is too clean. A Swiss agricultural institute discovered that tiny specks of hay are responsible for the famous holes in traditional Swiss cheeses like Emmentaler and Appenzeller. As milk matures into cheese, these microscopically small hay particles help create the holes in the cheese. The government-funded Agroscope Institute said in a statement on Thursday that the transition from age-old milking methods in barns to fully automated, industrial milking systems had caused the holes to decline during the past 15 years. In a series of tests, scientists added different amounts of hay dust to the milk and discovered that it allowed them to regulate the number of holes.
[A] new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people’s well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.