Corrupted Research – Exposing the Peer Review Process

When you hear about new medical breakthroughs in the news, you will only hear about peer reviewed research. Peer reviewed means that it passed some sort of basic standards for quality. It is the gold standard of research.

But is it real gold, or fool’s gold?

Medical research seems especially mystical and awe inspiring to the average person. The basic concepts of medicine, which aren’t really difficult to understand, are deliberately cloaked in Latin terminology and other confusing jargon, making medical knowledge and theory seem out of reach to the common person.

After all, every profession needs to make you think you need their services. Lawyers make the legal system so complex and confusing that the average person is completely helpless without legal assistance. Accountants help the IRS tweak the tax code to make it virtually impossible for the average person to know it all, understand it all, or follow all the changes constantly being made. Doctors have made it so you cannot request medical tests or take drugs without their prescription. You name a profession, and you can see ways it perpetuates itself by disempowering the public.

What about the medical research profession?

One of the most important things to know about medical research is that, above all else, it is a profession. Researchers make their money usually from both salaries and grants. The job of the researcher is to find a sponsor for their special type of research. The more research projects and publications they get, the more sponsors they have, and the higher their income. And if a researcher comes up with a patentable device or drug, there are intellectual property rights to throw into the compensation package.

This means that researchers do not work for free. They are mercenary. There may be very interesting and, by social standards, very important research that needs to be done that they could do. But unless, and until, they are paid to do it, the work does not get done.

This means that the funding sources of research, be it the government or private sources, determine what research is actually done. Most of the money for medical research comes from the private sector, usually drug companies, which is why drugs dominate modern medicine. Government funding is little different, since it comes from agencies that are highly lobbied by drug companies, and are run by doctors trained and paid by drug companies. Medicine is a public-private partnership, giving the pharmaceutical industry government-like power over the culture and its healthcare research.

Research into non-drug alternatives are rarely done for this reason. It is also why medicine claims it knows very little about the causes of most diseases of our time. They care much more about the treatment than the cause, since treatment is profitable for the research sponsors, while knowing the cause can lead to prevention, which translates in medical terminology into “unbillable”.

Of course, this is a pretty big scam to pull off. Consider its scope. The public is taxed and begged for donations to pay for medical research that goes into discovering drug treatments that the public will later have to pay incredibly high prices to obtain, and only after paying the doctor for an office visit to get a prescription. And if the drug gives nasty side effects it only leads to more calls for more money to find newer drugs with different side effects.

Is the public getting a good deal here? How do you know the research is scientifically valid? Where is the quality control?

Since most people have been conditioned into believing that they cannot judge medical research unless they have a Ph.D., M.D., N.D., or other license, the research is evaluated for you by other scientists in the field. This is called peer review.

Scientists doing research, as with all professions, belong to a club of like-minded researchers in the same business, promoting their services and products. They belong to the same kinds of industries, such as universities or large multinational drug corporations. They have the same education, which means they all think alike. The purpose of their organization is to provide standards of practice that are supposed to assure quality. Any research must first be somehow reviewed by the peers of this club to make sure the quality guidelines are met, before the research can be published.

Yet, despite this assurance of quality, the fact is that most of what is considered true today will be discarded as false in the future. “Ninety percent of what you learn in medical school will be out of date and considered obsolete in ten years,” we were told by the dean of students when I began medical school. This means that most of what doctors learn is wrong. It also means that the new information which will come in 10 years to replace and update current misconceptions and errors will also be considered obsolete in another ten years’ time. This is a powerful indictment of medical research, which seems to produce little more than temporary information.

It also means that the peer review process does not assure truth. It only means that current standards of practice are followed. Currently, this allows conflicts of interest, since most drug research is paid for by the companies that produce and profit from those same drugs. Even research testing drug side effect hazards is paid for by the companies standing to lose, big time, if their drugs are proven unsafe. Since drug companies have their bottom line, and not unselfish service to mankind, as their reason for existing, it is extremely unwise to trust them with research into their own products. Researchers take no oaths of honesty or integrity. They work for whoever pays them, and they are not above fudging the results to get the desired outcome.

This is not good science, of course. But it is science as practiced in a culture that has professionalized research into a profit-making enterprise. It is not, as people fantasize, the sacred trust needed for helping the sick and injured with unselfish devotion. Medical research is about making money coming up with newly patented drugs to replace the ones that have just gone off-patent and are being sold too cheaply by generic drug competitors.

Peer review does not stop the conflict of interest. Medical journals accept conflict of interest, knowing that it is the way medical research is done. Knowing what research is coming down the pike allows these insiders to get a whiff of new drug developments before the public knows, so they can change their investment portfolio mix for anticipated stock price adjustments.

Peer review also keeps out alternative theories and ways of doing research. All innovation threatens the status quo, and those who control the peer review process, like Supreme Court Justices, can decide on which cases to hear and which to ignore. They are gatekeepers of the status quo, which keeps the current powers that be in power. Since the medical peer review boards are the culture’s final authority on quality, there is no way to challenge their decisions. The quality of the research may in fact be poor, which is evident when you see how many research articles criticize other, peer reviewed research as being flawed in some way. Any researcher will tell you that lots of bad research is done that gets published. However, it’s a publish or perish world. Since researchers and their peers are all caught in this same publish or perish demand, and review one another’s work, they subtly collude to get as much research as they can funded and published. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. They argue among themselves in the journals as to the quality of their work, and for sure there is some competition among scientists as they solicit grants from the same sources to do pretty much the same thing. But there is overall an understanding that, as peers, united they stand and divided they fall.

Of course, this means that peer review is nothing more than a political arrangement for research workers, like a guild or union. It’s goal is to keep control over their field, suppress the competition, and assure continued cash flow. It has nothing to do with science, the systematic search for truth, which must not be tainted by financial motives or tempted by personal gain.

So the next time you hear a news story about some new wonder drug, look for the union label. If it is peer reviewed, there’s a ninety percent change it’s wrong.

Motic Microscope: Best For Research

Microscopes are very useful tools that many scientists use to study minuscule cells in order to better understand several things all around you. These are normally used to understand the nature of some elements and to study the behavior of some cells. Medical science owes much to microscopes and the technology used within microscopes has changed greatly since they first came about.

Today, scientists now use a digital microscope and these do not have the microscope problems that are found in regular traditional microscopes. A particular kind of microscope stands out from the others and this would be the motic microscope.

The motic microscope is being used by several scientists all over the world. There are many different kinds of this microscope and each come with their own specialized features. A great example of these features would be the Image comparison feature. This allows users to easily compare the differences of specimens side by side.

Another very good feature of a motic microscope would be the image enhancements that it comes with. It is able to do this because of several filters, including custom fit ones, which allows the user to edit or change the view of the captured image.

There is also a model that is specially designed for dissections. It can easily be plugged into your computer through a USB cable and offers up to 40x magnification. Light is also provided by an LED bulb that can be angled to change the focus to any part of the specimen.

Whenever you are out looking for a new digital microscope, you would no longer need to look further than a motic microscope. There are many different kinds of motic microscopes all with their own specializations. These are all very good quality microscopes that are both suitable for research or educational needs.

Effective Research

The issue, Possibility of Perfect Research, raises some important questions on a research output or research process. What is research? What is the absolute basis of research? Why research is initiated? How research is conducted? How research is evaluated? What is perfection? Is perfection during research process viable? What is effective research management? What is research paper? We will make an effort to answer the aforesaid questions.

Oxford Dictionary defines research as, a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it. A research is either summary of information or evaluation of some already discovered information. Literally, research involves “searching again” the subject what others have written on it. A research is blend of information, evaluation, and innovation. Firstly, it gives information on a particular subject or matter, secondly, evaluates the earlier research or reviews relevant literature, and finally, the new work adds some innovative aspects, both practical as well as conceptual.

Man is combination of three basic realities, i.e., body, mind, and soul. Human activities are shaped by physical needs, psychological instincts, and soul urges. At physical level, an important physical need is leisure or relaxation. At psychological level, an important mental instinct is curiosity. Again, at spiritual level, an important soul urge is perfection. The multiple reasons of research are physical demand for more leisure, intellectual thrust on account of instinctual curiosity, perfectionist aspiration of soul due to ingrained urge of soul towards perfection. The very foundation of human anatomy is thus ultimate basis of research, so that research will continue forever. There is not possibility of perfect research in any discipline.

Life has two levels, individual and collective. Collective life is contractual arrangement of leaders and followers. Institutions are inevitable aspect of collective life. An institution works under the stewardship of leaders. Leaders initiate multiple programs to maintain their authority over followers or to maintain smooth sailing of institutions. A follower may change her mind towards leadership on account of static, poor, and corrupt governance. The solution to ceremonial or non-performing institutional setup is introduction of innovations, both conceptual as well as practical. Consequently, innovations are introduced from time to time. The very foundation of innovation is initiation of new and fresh research. In order to maintain the fabric of collective life, leaders (social or economic or political) initiates research from time to time. At intellectual level, the conducted research is prone towards perfection but practically it achieves only a fair output due to multiple constraints, financial and non-financial, imposed by leaders.

A research is conducted by intellectuals. Intellectuals/Scientists are creative group of a society. They receive ideas from multiple life events, now and then. The reception of idea is special psycho-social strength of intellectuals/scientists. An idea is like a seed of a plant. They think-rethink on it and assess the viability of idea. At last, they are positive towards productivity of their idea. They separate/arrange resources for idea realization. Sharing of idea with entrepreneur (social or economic or political) is an important step for resource arrangement. An idea realization activity is self-perfection of intellectual/scientist. It is noteworthy that proactive approach of an entrepreneur or society towards new ideas is vital for the materialization of intellectual creativity.

Research Evaluation is an important step for effective research management. Research Management is a professional work. Although, it is research-driven work but it is not research it is management of research efforts Generally, research is evaluated on the basis of it practical fruits rather than intellectual strength. The significant stakeholders of a research are entrepreneurs, governments, and general public. A research would be productive if it enhances profit of entrepreneur, power of government, and welfare of public. It is noteworthy that the perfectionist tendency of intellectuals/ researchers is not decisive factor for research output; it is effectiveness that determines acceptance of research. It is said that tree is recognized by fruits so the same is true about research output.

Perfection has two aspects, relative and absolute. An absolute perfection is non temporal and non spatial phenomenon, while relative perfection is temporal-spatial phenomenon. Normally, a creative work is only relatively perfect. Overtime it looses her effectiveness, people search for something anew. It has happened many times and it will happen from time to time. For example, during 19th century, scientists have become perfectionist towards their findings. They were painting only statistical picture of everything. In early decades of 20th century, Einstein, Jung, Gestalt, Keynes, Iqbal, Bergson, and Bertrand Russell broke the myth of perfectionism or micro truths. They marginalized the accepted facts and opened new vistas of research.

A research is either positive or fruitful for multiple stakeholders of research or harmful for them. The practical outcome of research and resource input of research decides the effectiveness of research management. A positive research idea of intellectuals/scientists converts into some inventions or creative work, the invention is converted into innovation by entrepreneurs, the innovation is accepted by masses or rejected by them. An accepted innovation is either temporary or permanent. A temporary outcome is obsolete, sooner or later. For example, the 19th century communication system is history in 21st century. On the other hand, democracy is permanent outcome of enlightened intellectuals of 18th/19th century. We are reaping the benefits of democracy established by Abraham Lincoln in America, by Churchill in Europe, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Pakistan.

A research paper is formal presentation of research. The very beginning of a research paper is introduction of focal idea of research. A researcher then reviews the relevant literature to focus her mind towards viability or significance of idea. A definite research methodology is outlined to attain better outcomes from research effort. Now, the researcher explains the findings of research, logically and forcefully. Finally, the researcher discusses the implications, both practical and conceptual, of research endeavor. A good research paper indicates some possible lines of action for further research because a perfect research is not possible on account of multiple constraints both, financial and non financial. A research essay follows the same pattern, however it is less formal.

The Ten Characteristics of the Scientific Research

Professors and supervisors in general request scientific papers in college but do not always bother to explain what the basic characteristics of a scientific work are. Thinking about this, I tried to summarize in what follows the main characteristics of the scientific research. Note that to do scientific work, you need to have a scientific attitude first.

To perform a scientific task that obeys the scientific process, it is necessary to verify that your essay includes the following elements.

1. Objectivity. Scientific knowledge is based on facts and it seeks to describe them and analyze them objectively, regardless of emotional considerations or preconceived ideas. The empirical data is the raw material of theoretical formulations.

2. Theorization. In addition to describing the facts, science rationalizes the observations. The researcher formulates hypotheses and hypothesis systems, that is, theories. In other words, the real source of the discoveries is not the raw facts, but the theorization of hypotheses in the form of theories.

3. Analyze. Scientific research addresses well-defined or partial problems, aiming at partial solutions. It seeks to unfold an entire complex into its simplest components. Therefore, science starts with partial problems.

4. Specialization. The analysis of partial and delimited problems leads to specialization. Although there is unity in the scientific method, the multiplicity of techniques has resulted in the relative independence of the various sectors.

5. Precision. Science seeks clarity and precision. Clarity and precision are revealed in the formulation of problems and in the definition of concepts.

6. Communicability. The language of science, precise and rigorous, is primarily aimed at informing. It is the duty of every scientist to communicate the results of his research to the world of science so that they can be verified, confirmed or refuted (if necessary). This is so important that there are specific rules for the scientific discourse.

7. Verifiability. This means that the hypotheses and theories must be testable. It is necessary to check whether they have a greater or lesser degree of reliability. The test is empirical and observable. In other words, the confirmation of the hypothesis involves carrying out experiments.

8. Method. Scientific research is planned so it is part of an already accumulated knowledge. Science is subject to its methods but can adapt and perfect them.

9. Systematization. The goal of science is to create a system of ideas logically related to each other.

10. Generalization. Particular statements are included in broad schemes, allowing for a greater degree of generalization. Particular facts are studied in view of general hypothesis or theories. The scientist who works in his laboratory seeks to reach the universals that his logical reason discovers in the complex structure of particular facts of nature.

The Most Common Types of Sources in a Research Paper

To find out more about the topic that you decided to pursue in your research paper, a good review of literature will help you narrow it down as well as point out the gaps in knowledge. The internet offers a lot of free information sparing you the added burden of spending too much on paid subscriptions to access articles in a scientific journal.

Here are common types of online sources that beginning and veteran researchers alike use in strengthening the arguments of their research paper.

1. Government websites

Government websites provide information for the benefit of the general public. Therefore, those tasked to publish information in government websites make sure that the information is truthful to avoid misleading the public. Government sites are good sources of information on demographics, legal matters, business, among others.

2. Academic sites

Websites with.edu attached to it means that these are websites of colleges or universities. Since schools are meant to educate, various checks are made to ensure that the information provided to the public is reliable.

Large university websites usually issue newsletters that highlight new research findings and current research trends. These are good leads that will show you which areas have not been explored yet.

3. Free scientific journals

There are many free scientific journals online. Make full use of them. You can start off with open access scientific journals found in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Just type your keyword in the search box of doaj.org and voila, you have a list of articles or journals at your fingertips to choose from. Abstracts or full research papers can be downloaded to boost your reference collection.

4. Non-government organizations’ websites

Non-profit organizations or non-government organizations are also good sources of information. A good way to assess the quality of information in these sites is to see how long they have been existing. You can also discern the quality of posts by reading articles from the website and verifying the sources. If it is full of grammatical errors and there are claims that are without basis, chances are, those sites are not legitimate or are poor sources of information. Choose those which are well-edited and apolitical in nature.

5. Free online courses

Enrolling in free online courses will give you the opportunity to review literature especially when the topic touches on theories or research findings that back up recommended practices. For example, an online course on physical activity for health recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This recommendation is substantiated by a critical review of studies conducted by many authors on the health benefits of exercise.

6. Use encyclopedic sources like Wikipedia

There are researchers who avoid citing Wikipedia because it is largely user-generated and thus generally unreliable. While there may be wisdom in this contention, the references provided in Wikipedia can be good leads to reliable information. You can always cross check the information with other references.

7. Researchers’ blogs

Researchers’ blogs can provide useful information as recognized experts in their field. Well-known researchers usually respond positively when students request complimentary copies of their research paper published in reputable scientific journals.

While online sources are good sources of information, exploring your study area, making critical observations, or talking with people can provide valuable insights. There is no substitute to personal encounter or interaction.