Are Research Results Fact or Fiction?

What if the so called trustworthy fruits of research are not true after all?

By Chantelle (Tilly) War, Staff Writer



We live in a society where we often refrain from making a choice until we’ve done our research on the subject, be it a vaccination, new vehicle, or vacation. Over the years, we have come to trust the fruits of our research labour. But what if those helpful tidbits we’ve come to rely on weren’t so true after all? Suddenly, you realize that a person or corporation will say anything to make the sale, but more important, gain your trust.

In his essay, “Why Most Published Research Findings are False”, Dr. John P.A Loannidis discusses why the information we have come to trust isn’t as trustworthy as we first thought. The main reason for this is bias. Dr. Ioannidis defines bias as, “the combination of various design, data, analysis, and presentation factors that tend to produce research findings when they should not be produced.” The author also notes that people should be cautious that they don’t mix up bias with chance variability. [pullquote]One of the main problems with biased research is that the results can be easily manipulated to suit the researcher’s needs.[/pullquote]

One of the main problems with biased research is that the results can be easily manipulated to suit the researcher’s needs. For instance, studies may be conducted by several independent teams. They may have similar questions to ask, however, instead of keeping broad horizons and open minds, they focus on isolated discoveries, and interpret the results in an equally isolated environment. Any bits or pieces of information that could help support the argument are then carefully picked and chosen. No matter how miniscule, if it could potentially convince you, it will be used.

A common occurrence that also tends to lead to bias is selective or distortive reporting. A person’s research labours might yield consistent results, but if there are outcomes that don’t match the rest of the findings, they may be nixed for their inconsistencies. Those who are trying to do the convincing tend to bury any conflicts of interest. No one wants to present findings that are against their arguments.

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