Defective Health Research

By August 8, 2019 Commentary

In a somewhat ironic twist, given that the magazine Nature is a particularly good source for suspect climate alarmism articles, it carries a story about a physician in the United Kingdom who has uncovered misleading or outright fraudulent medical research in a staggeringly large number of studies.   (Nature Article)   Statistics is a dangerous and complex field and it is easy for even experienced researchers to misuse its tools.  And the complexity makes statistics fertile ground for those seeking to create research findings that didn’t really exist.  Why would supposed scientists do this?  That is easy to answer; they are human beings after all; and they can be interested in fame and fortune, career advancement, or just be true believers and determined to create supposed research findings that support their dogma.  The physician in England uses statistical tests to identify findings that look too good to be true; and upon investigation it almost always turns out that they were.  This has led to retractions of hundreds of published papers and the firings of the researchers involved.  Much of his initial work centered in his own field of anesthesiology, but he has now examined studies in multiple medical disciplines, finding similar problems.  The original papers had often led to changes in recommendations for medical practice, which obviously endangered patients since the research was flawed.  The statistical techniques he uses don’t necessarily mean there was fraud, or even innocent error, but they do flag research which should be carefully investigated.  There are other researchers who are now attempting to systematically verify the accuracy of results reported in medical studies and they are performing a valuable function, given that life and death are often at stake.  It is disappointing how often the problems they find are just bad math–how can the original researchers have been so careless in their calculations.  And what is even more disappointing is that the medical journals in which these studies are published, supposedly after peer review, did not catch them.  It should be the role of these journals to ensure that nothing gets published that isn’t solid; but given that we are seeing hundreds of retractions, they obviously are not doing their job.

Now back to climate change for a moment.  If you think use of statistics and bad experimental design is a problem in medical research, you should look at what goes in climate research, where ideology clearly rules.  You literally can’t trust anything there because the scientists intentionally change data, use sketchy statistics and the journals, including Nature, have such a bias that they make no effort to validate or correct the research and they demonize anyone who attempts to do so.  There is a small group of very, very brave individuals who do point out the errors and they are hounded across the internet.  You can easily verify what I am saying by a little research on that wonderful computer in your hands and doing so might stop the waste of trillions of dollars fighting something that doesn’t exist.

Kevin Roche

Author Kevin Roche

The Healthy Skeptic is a website about the health care system, and is written by Kevin Roche, who has many years of experience working in the health industry through Roche Consulting, LLC. Mr. Roche is available to assist health care companies through consulting arrangements and may be reached at khroche@healthy-skeptic.com.

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