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Advice to junior researchers: High or low road to success?
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Advice to junior researchers: High or low road to success?


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A presentation from the International Psycho-Oncology Society Conference in Rotterdam invited by the IPOS Early Career Professionals Special Interest Group.

A presentation from the International Psycho-Oncology Society Conference in Rotterdam invited by the IPOS Early Career Professionals Special Interest Group.

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  • 1. Junior researchers face a choice: a high or a low road to success James C. Coyne, Ph.D. University Medical Center Groningen, NL and Institute for Health Policy, Rutgers University, NJ, USA
  • 2. How you are different… Methodologically, statistically more sophisticated than those who have come before you. More digitally savvy, although slow in taking advantage of the resources available to you.
  • 3. How you are different… Electronic monitoring of duplicate publication, salami slicing, plagiarism. Quantification of output—JIF, Hirsch Factor. Reporting requirements—CONSORT. Pre-registration of clinical trials.
  • 4. Expectable Obsolescence   Much of what I said five years ago is now obsolete. Much of what I say today is already becoming obsolete and will be obsolete in five years.
  • 5. Obsolete Advice   Be aware of the need to effectively communicate about your work, use listservs. Challenge the gross inadequacies of peer review, write letters to the editor.
  • 6. How I work today is quite different from how I was trained, or even to what I was doing 5 years ago. Increasingly involves being fluid in scholarship and digital technologies.
  • 7. I am a boundary spanner for loosely organized groups of authors, some of whom never meet until after a paper is submitted. Cochrane Collaboration honored one BMJ paper with the Bill Silverman Prize: certified disruptive innovators. .
  • 8. I…. Tweet, blog, use facebook. Champion open access publishing. Goal: Publish all the evidence, not just all the findings that fit a particular bias or fashion. Promote continuous post-publication commentary.
  • 9.  23,468 articles published last year  4739 editors  400,000 member review board  Impact Factor 3.73
  • 10. “The job of the PLOS ONE reviewer is not to decide whether the study represents a significant advance to the field, or whether additional experiments need to be performed to increase the impact, or whether it is suitable for a broad interest journal. The reviewer must simply ascertain whether the study has been performed correctly, and whether the data support the conclusions.”
  • 11. Tweets may become a blog post, then a series of blog posts, eventually a peer-reviewed journal article. Sometimes works in opposite direction. Blogging very much part of “how to be a scholar” in the current, digital moment. 
  • 12. I use blogs to post first drafts of ideas and often to work out just what I think about something. Blogging a way to support junior investigators in developing their critical thinking, their research, and in teaching.  But the blog can be much more…..
  • 13. Advice  Figure out where such action is occurring.  Observe, experiment.  Get involved.
  • 14.   Invite you to join me in participating in disruptive innovation. Alternative path, not for everyone.
  • 15. The low road   Clear opportunity to conform, play the game according to rules that work, once you are aware of them. Many of you will do so and some of you can rise to the top of a mediocrity by doing so.
  • 16. If everyone likes your work, you can be certain that you haven’t done anything important. Conflict and pain go with the territory -- that of changing how a profession thinks and furthering what we know about our world. The pressures on young researchers are to conform, to accept fashionable ways of analyzing problems, and above all to please senior professors and their own peers. Unfortunately this is bad for scientific progress. —Andrew Osweld
  • 17. Field of Psycho-Oncology is a Mess   Confirmatory Bias, many findings accepted as positive are exaggerated or outright false. Bulk of intervention studies are underpowered, high risk of bias, not intent to treat, yet obtain significant results at statistically improbable rate.
  • 18.   Self-interest of professional groups consistently trumps commitment to evidence-based science. Most notably seen in aggressive promotion of screening for distress as panacea in face of lack of evidence.
  • 19.    Many celebrated findings are null upon closer examination: Spiegel, Fawzi, Antoni, Andersen. Negative trials of supportive expressive therapy and expressive writing are relegated to file drawer. Zombie ideas and tooth fairy science.
  • 20. System is not working fairly.    Papers appear in ostensibly peerreviewed journals without adequate review, cronyism, sweetheart deals to ignore reviewers’ comments. Sandbagging of critics and negative findings. Authors able to suppress commentary, censor criticism of their work.
  • 21. Journal of Clinical Oncology Particularly Bad!   Flawed peer review, defensive editors, and serious restrictions on correction of miscarried review process. Post publication peer review continually handicapped, kept weak, silenced.
  • 22. Will you adopt a safer course of upholding conventional wisdom, denying anything is wrong, and take advantage of confirmatory publication bias to continue to make strong claims about weak findings?
  • 23.  Obedient replication: Investigators accept that the prevailing views are so dominant that finding consistent results is a sign of being a good scientist and there is no room for dissenting results and objections. Adapted from John Ioannidis, 2012
  • 24. How to Succeed Pick trendy topic. Don’t be critical of dominant view. Use biological measures, even if they have no or unknown clinical significance. Report positive findings, even if you have to spin and torture data. Claim confirmation of dominant view, no matter what you found.
  • 25. Telling It Like It Ain’t: How to Succeed   Have lots of endpoints and pick the one that makes your Trial look best. Favor secondary analyses, subgroup analyses, and endpoints developed post hoc over negative findings for primary analyses.
  • 26. Taking the High Road…
  • 27.  Blog  Tweet  Lurk, Like, Favor, and Comment  Join Groups like Mental Elf
  • 28. PubMed Commons is a system that enables researchers to share their opinions about scientific publications. Researchers can comment on any publication indexed by PubMed, and read the comments of others.
  • 29.   PubMed Commons is a forum for open and constructive criticism and discussion of scientific issues. It will thrive with high quality interchange from the scientific community.
  • 30. Join the Pubmed Commons Revolution No longer will a few people grant an irrevocable judgment of “must stand because it is peer reviewed.” You can take post publication peer review out of the hands of editors.
  • 31. The Larger Goal To create a literature that is honest and a reliable guide for other researchers, clinicians, patients, the media, and policy makers as to best evidence.
  • 32. The Larger Goal ….A system where the review process is transparent and persists for the useful life of a work --Paraphrase of M. Eisen
  • 33. Thank you for your attention.    Follow me on Twitter @CoyneoftheRealm. Publically accessible Facebook wall (James C. Coyne). Blogs: Mind the Brain, Science-Based Medicine.