Poor-Quality Medical Research: What Can Journals Do

Cancer Research UK/NHS Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Institute of Health Sciences, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LF, England.
JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 35.29). 07/2002; 287(21):2765-7. DOI: 10.1001/jama.287.21.2765
Source: PubMed


The aim of medical research is to advance scientific knowledge and hence—directly
or indirectly—lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention of
disease. Each research project should continue systematically from previous
research and feed into future research. Each project should contribute beneficially
to a slowly evolving body of research. A study should not mislead; otherwise
it could adversely affect clinical practice and future research. In 1994 I
observed that research papers commonly contain methodological errors, report
results selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions. Here I revisit the
topic and suggest how journal editors can help.

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    • "However, the real problem, hiding behind this rejection rate is the far more serious issue about the nature of research, which has started to corrupt the image of science as a search for truth. This has happened in response to the demand from universities for more publications – regardless of quality -and it has happened not only in Construction Management but across a wide range of biomedical and social sciences (Ioanidis, 2005; Estes, 2012; Altman, 2002; Trouble at the lab, 2013). The studies mentioned here do not refer to construction management specifically, and there has as yet been no discussion of research in Construction Management per se. "

    Preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Australasian Journal of Construction Economics and Building
    • "For example, the 'Instructions to Authors' should highlight the importance of the use of appropriate statistical methods and the accuracy of their description in the manuscript. The journals should also inform the authors of the guidelines developed for different kinds of study protocols [7] , either describing the guidelines or providing the reference to the most recent version in the 'Instructions to Authors'. The reviewers could be separately asked to evaluate the quality and reporting of the issues dealing with the statistical analysis. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: Statistical methods play an important role in medical and dental research. In earlier studies it has been observed that current use of methods and reporting of statistics are responsible for some of the errors in the interpretation of results. The aim of this study was to investigate the quality of statistical reporting in dental research articles. Methods: A total of 200 articles published in 2010 were analysed covering five dental journals: Journal of Dental Research, Caries Research, Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, Journal of Dentistry and Acta Odontologica Scandinavica. Each paper underwent careful scrutiny for the use of statistical methods and reporting. A paper with at least one poor reporting item has been classified as 'problems with reporting statistics' and a paper without any poor reporting item as 'acceptable'. Results: The investigation showed that 18 (9%) papers were acceptable and 182 (91%) papers contained at least one poor reporting item. Conclusions: The proportion of at least one poor reporting item in this survey was high (91%). The authors of dental journals should be encouraged to improve the statistical section of their research articles and to present the results in such a way that it is in line with the policy and presentation of the leading dental journals.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Acta Odontologica Scandinavica
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    • "They are considered a form of post-publication peer review and an essential part of scientific debate [3-7]. LTE provide a platform to comment on, clarify and correct published research by alerting readers about aspects of a paper that may have been overlooked by authors, peer-reviewers and editors [5-8]. Some authors have argued that an article is not fully peer-reviewed until after publication [9,10] and that authors of LTE may have more credibility than pre-publication peer reviewers because their opinions are signed, published and thus transparent [3]. "
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    ABSTRACT: To identify published letters to the editor (LTE) written in response to randomized controlled trials (RCTs), determine the topics addressed in the letters, and to examine if these topics were affected by the characteristics and results of the RCTs. Comparative cross-sectional study of a representative sample of RCTs from a set of high-impact medical journals (BMJ, Lancet, NEJM, JAMA, and Annals of Internal Medicine). RCTs and their published LTE were searched from these 5 journals in 2007. Data were collected on RCTs and their characteristics (author affiliation, funding source, intervention, and effect on the primary outcome) and the topics addressed in published LTE related to these RCTs. Analysis included chi-square and regression analysis (RCT characteristics) and thematic analysis (LTE topics). Of 334 identified RCTs, 175 trials had at least one LTE. Of these, 381 published LTE were identified. Most RCTs, tested drug interventions (68%), were funded by government (54%) or industry (33%), and described an intervention that had a positive impact on the primary outcome (62%). RCT authors were primarily affiliated with an academic centre (78%). Ninety percent of the 623 LTE topics concerned methodological issues regarding the analysis, intervention, and population in the RCT. There was a significant association between funding source and impact on outcomes (p = 0.002) or type of intervention tested (p = 0.001) in these trials. Clinical and "Other" LTE topics were more likely to be published in response to a government funded RCT (p = 0.005 and p = 0.033, respectively); no other comparisons were significant. This study showed that most LTE are about methodological topics, but found little evidence to support that these topics are affected by the characteristics or results of the RCTs. The lack of association may be explained by editorial censorship as a small proportion of LTE that are submitted are actually published.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · BMC Research Notes
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