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At last: Amount of “spin” in biomedical papers calculated

What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

And the type catalogued. From ScienceDaily:

More than a quarter of biomedical scientific papers may utilize practices that distort the interpretation of results or mislead readers so that results are viewed more favorably, a new study suggests.

Their findings, published in PLOS Biology, found more than 26 percent of papers identified as systematic reviews or meta-analyses contained spin. This figure rose to up to 84 percent in papers reporting on nonrandomised trials.

While spin was variably defined across the 35 studies, a wide variety of strategies to spin results were identified including:

– making inappropriate claims about statistically non-significant results

– making inappropriate recommendations for clinical practice that were not supported by study results

– attributing causality when that was not possible

– selective reporting, such as emphasising only statistically significant or subsets of data in the conclusions

– presenting data in a more favourable light than was warranted, for example writing overly optimistic abstracts, misleadingly describing the study design and underreporting adverse events. Paper. (public access) – Kellia Chiu, Quinn Grundy, Lisa Bero. ‘Spin’ in published biomedical literature: A methodological systematic review. PLOS Biology, 2017; 15 (9): e2002173 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2002173  More.

If this kind of thing is accepted in science, lay people can’t change it. But what a nerve some people then have, berating the public for “not believing in science.” No wonder that in some research, it is the more educated people who are the doubters.

Keep up to date with Retraction Watch

See also: Study: More education leads to more doubt of science “consensus”


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