Archive for July, 2018

A not so thoughtful piece!

July 3, 2018

In today’s Mint, Siddharth Pai has a piece titled “Time to stem the ‘corruption’ in scientific studies”. I am disappointed with the piece.

In the first place, the following claim is wrong:

Journal editors, who oversee peer-reviewed journals, are supposed to send submissions to some of the author’s peers, usually to test whether the claims the author is making can be replicated by the reviewers independently in their own laboratories.

I do not see how any reviewer can replicate studies which take lots of time, effort and equipment. If this indeed is the case, I will write grant proposals to replicate the papers that I review.

I also find the following claim problematic at several levels:

Interestingly enough, one does not see this anomaly in the technology world and in some areas of the life sciences, like pharmaceutical research. The reason is simple. Businesses directly invest in research only if they see the potential of economic returns from it. Pharma companies spend billions on research and development and, after they have a successful drug, many more millions on promoting it—partly by sponsoring research papers that doctors will read. All this spend is transparent. In other words, the fact that profit is the motive is always clear, and the market ends up being the final arbiter of whether a new technology or a new drug is a money spinner.

If market dictates drug research completely, more money might be spent on problems of the rich (such as cosmetics and aging, for example). In addition, many technologies that we see today is an off-shoot of independent research which was carried out without explicit market concerns — even in industrial setting such as the Bell labs for example.

Finally, I see this towards the end of the piece:

We would be a lot better off if we stated the profit motive from the get-go and allowed the economics of the market to guide where research money is spent.

I realize this is not a black and white discussion. Nonetheless, taking a polarized position allows for debate. …

I do not see what useful discussion can stem from such a lazy piece which seems to take a polarized position just for the heck of it while twisting facts and offering incorrect analysis along the way!