I came across this great blog post again today while doing some literature search for one of my projects. I remember really enjoying this post when I first encountered it, and it was as much of a joy to read the second time around! What I appreciate about this article is that it doesn’t try to refute the contentious claim that “most [biomedical] research findings are false” but instead puts a “yes and…” spin on it.
Many biomedical research findings are “false”, and also that’s to be expected. We’re in a field without much basic theory to back us up, dealing with noisy and complex systems (oh hi humans) and noisy and complex measurements.
The replication crisis in science is largely attributable to a mismatch in our expectations of how often findings should replicate and how difficult it is to actually discover true findings in certain fields… Ultimately, when someone asks, “Why haven’t we cured cancer yet?” the answer is “Because it’s hard”.
I also like this article because it reminds me of my own rants about bioengineering research - I personally struggle to find inspiration and meaning in results based on cell lines or animal models (give me the real thing, like poop!) and also I recognize the tremendous value that these kinds of studies provide.
I would, however, add one bullet point to the end of the blog post’s list:
- We should invest in science dedicated to understanding and developing the basic theory underpinning biological sciences.
I mean, we humans figured out thermodynamics – you can’t tell me biology is harder than that and we’re just gonna give up!!