Making science believable again Tamsin Rose, Progress Works
Politicians – seen by themselves and by scientists Self interested, ego-driven, obsessed by their image, short term viewpoint, unaccountable, irrational, blinded by ideology, lacking in critical analytical skills Visionary, inspirational, leaders, fair, ambitious, clear-minded, serving high ideals, listening to people, building the future
Scientists – seen by themselves and by Politicians Unreliable, arrogant, out of touch, unrealistic, unable to give a clear answer, 'ivory tower', impractical, don't understand political realities Brilliant, dedicated, visionary, impartial, open-minded, curious, collaborative, generous, humanistic, practical, accurate
Boundaries need to be clearer 'Rent-a-Researcher': Did a British university sell out to Procter & Gamble?, “ Ethics for Sale : For-profit ethical review, coming to a clinical trial near you ”. Slate.com Authorship, ghost-science, access to data and control of the pharmaceutical scientific literature: who stands behind the word?, AAAS 2006 “ More medical scandals set to break, warns BMA chief ,” The Telegraph, 2000 “ University of Miami scandal raises questions about government research ”, June 2010 “ China milk scare exposes scandal-for-hire industry” , Bloomberg.com, October 2010
Failing to meet the gold standard Hwang Woo-Suk - convicted of falsifying his stem-cell research papers and embezzling government research funds. Victor Ninov - Claimed existence of new chemical element – 118 Jan Hendrik Schön - Reuse of data sets, data produced using mathematical functions. Medical School researcher Eric Poehlman pled guilty to falsifying data on not one, but 15, different papers.
The media – full of 'research news' Why Saturday TV is good for you “ Invite mates over to watch Saturday night telly, or have a good chinwag over the phone - both could help you live longer. Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, has shown that strong social networks are one of the best defences against destructive stress. ” The Sun newspaper, November 2010 Being good with numbers 'can make you rich' 2010-11-11, Washington: “ Couples who score well on a simple test of numeracy ability are more likely to earn more wealth by middle age than those who score poorly, suggests a study .”
Can we trust scientific results for policy-making? “ A pooled weighted average of 1.97% of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices.” [Daniele Fanelli, PLoS]
Call for complete transparency on performance and reporting of clinical trials “ The case against selective reporting is particularly compelling for research that tests interventions that could enter mainstream clinical practice. Rather than a single trial, it is usually a body of evidence, consisting of many studies, that changes medical practice. When research sponsors or investigators conceal the presence of selected trials, these studies cannot influence the thinking of patients, clinicians, other researchers, and experts who write practice guidelines or decide on insurance-coverage policy. ” Editorial published simultaneously in 11 international medical journals, 2005
Policy can't be based on scientific evidence alone “ It would be unrealistic, and frankly naive, to imagine that scientific evidence is the only thing that politicians will or should take into account in their decision-making. Scientific evidence should be tempered by complementary views from other analytic disciplines — so, for example, the science must be balanced against the economics and social research. Hypothetically, the science may point to the benefits of a particular medical intervention, while economic analyses may conclude that it is not cost effective and the social research may indicate that there will be patient resistance and uptake will be low anyway. ” John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to UK Government
- Public database of all clinical trials and their results. - Greater transparency about who funded the research. - Stronger guidance on conflicts of interest in research. - Strengthened regulatory oversight of research environment. - Honest discussion on the role of science in policy-making. - More responsible and informed media coverage of science. Where do we go from here?