In an opinion column at The Scientist, Lisa Cosgrove — associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and research lab fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University — says bias in research is "unavoidable," and it's time the scientific community faced the issue rather than pretending it doesn't exist. And disclosing financial conflicts of interest isn't enough, she adds. "Many argue that subjectivity in the research process and the potential for bias can be eradicated by strict adherence to the scientific method and transparency about industry relationships," Cosgrove says. "Together, scientists believe, these practices can guarantee evidence-based research that leads to the discovery and dissemination of 'objective' scientific truths. The assumption is that the reporting of biased results is a 'bad apple' problem — a few corrupt individuals engaging in research fraud. But what we have today is a bad barrel." It has been shown over and over that transparency alone isn't enough, and that objectivity doesn't necessarily result from "adherence to the scientific method," she adds.
It's a Given
Aug 08, 2012