Monday, June 1, 2009


I have some experience in academic research. I've published some papers and been to some conferences. I've read tons of papers that others have written and quite frankly it's nearly impossible to determine if the paper you are reading has any merit at all.

I've worked with some incredible scholars who are full of integrity. They conduct research following the scientific method and they try to draw conclusions and make inferences from the data collected.

The majority of researchers I have worked with have an agenda. They know the results that they want to find before they conduct the research and they design the 'experiment' to provide the results they want to see. It is easy to overlook large bodies of contradictory evidence when you don't want to see it. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to conduct non-biased research in an area where you have strong opinions.

Why does it matter that most research is not actually research, but rather a bundle of money spent to build the ego of a guy who is able to design research projects that 'prove' his opinion. As a person who looks for primary sources for information, this is a concern of mine, but for the average consumer, it really doesn't matter.

You see, most people wait for the watered down version of research. They wait for a journalist to read a research article, dumb it down and input his/her own biases before they read it. By the time 'research' reaches the public it may not even resemble truth.

I was once interviewed by a popular magazine on some research that I had conducted. I was glad to see that they took the time to email me and verify that what they had written agreed with the research that I had conducted. Most journalists don't do that. It is important to note that when the journalist wrote me, he had completely misinterpreted the research I had conducted.

There we have it; we use second hand information that is generally misinterpreted from primary research that was conducted to build the ego of some researcher. And what do we use this information for? We use this information to make some of the most important decisions of our lives. We decide what is healthy and what is not and we rely on this information to help us in virtually all aspects of our lives.

No wonder the Atkin's Diet seemed like a good idea. Here, I'll give you a specific example. I've seen it reported that the Atkin's diet has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Did you also know that any diet that puts you in a caloric deficit can improve cholesterol levels? Did you know that in the study on the Atkin's diet that subjects were given fishoil supplements? Did you know that fishoil supplements have been shown to improve cholesterol levels? By putting all of these things together in the same study, the study doesn't really show anything. Yet, most of us have heard that people on the Atkin's diet lower their cholesterol levels.

There is good research out there, it is just difficult to identify. In fact, I have found researchers that were reputable and whose work I trusted, only to find some complete junk science that they had conducted that made me distrust everything else they had published.

This is part of the reason I dropped out of a PhD program. I don't like the dishonesty in science. This is also important when it comes to global warming research and research on genetic engineered foods. Did you know that because Monsanto has a patent on many genetically engineered strains of vegetables, you cannot conduct research without their permission? It's not even possible to get unbiased research on many strains of genetically engineered foods.

Those are my thoughts on research.

1 comment:

cyclingred said...

I can't remember where I heard it but I was listening or reading something about this in regards to medical research.

One thing they also pointed out is the most of the results are reported in relative terms as opposed to abolute terms.

So while the research may show that a certain drug will reduce your risk of heart attack by 50% they fail to point that maybe your risk of heart attack was 10 percent and taking the drug reduces it to 5 percent. Hardly the dramatic result shown with the relative reduction.