Friday, October 15, 2010

How to Set the Bullshit Filter When the Bullshit is Thick

David Dobbs, in his blog Neuron Culture in Wired, comments in a piece called "How to Set the Bullshit Filter When the Bullshit is Thick" on an Atlantic profile by David H. Freedman of Dr. John Ioannidis, best known for his 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, "Why most published research findings are false." In an earlier Times piece, Dobbs said "Ioannidis, an epidemiologist, recently concluded that most articles published by biomedical journals are flat-out wrong. The sources of error, he found, are numerous: the small size of many studies, for instance, often leads to mistakes, as does the fact that emerging disciplines, which lately abound, may employ standards and methods that are still evolving. Finally, there is bias, which Ioannidis says he believes to be ubiquitous." Dobbs provides a good overview and analysis of Ioannidis's work, its implications, and related articles. Freedman's profile of Ioannidis is called, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science."

1 comment:

Simon Levy said...

Yeah, I read that article, and his advice agreed with my approach to news from the biomedical community: ignore it all. Like anything, medical research has become a self-serving racket.

On the positive side, I think that the situation will get better as Bayesian methods (as opposed to the weak frequentist methods currently employed) spread in the medical research community.