A talk by Julie Rehmeyer at the Joint Statistics Meetings, 2016.
In 2011, headlines worldwide announced that an effective treatment had been found for a debilitating illness that affects 17 million people around the world. The study was published in The Lancet. Great news!
Except that it wasn't. Patients with the illness, known as chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis, quickly decried the study as having severe scientific problems. Furthermore, it didn't fit with their experience: patients reported that the two treatments -- psychotherapy and gradually increasing exercise -- had little impact and could indeed be dangerous. They analyzed the study and spelled out its serious flaws, particularly statistical ones, in scientific journals, but the authors dismissed the concerns as prejudice against psychiatry.
In late 2015, journalist David Tuller wrote a 14,000-word expose of the flaws in the trial, citing the grave concerns of researchers. Dr. Ronald Davis of Stanford University, for example, said, "I'm shocked that the Lancet published it.I don't understand how it got through any kind of peer review."
I'll describe the problems with the science, with the functioning of the scientific institutions, and with the journalism.