Study: Science spin prevalent, researchers warn

So like, JunkScience has been been saying this for 21+ years. But whatever…

Science Without Sense

The media release is below.

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Science spin prevalent, researchers warn
Extent of spin in biomedical scientific papers revealed

UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

Researchers from the University’s multidisciplinary Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Pharmacy reviewed 35 published academic studies of so-called ‘spin’ in biomedical scientific papers – also known as ‘science hype’.

Their findings, published in PLOS Biology, found more than 26 percent of papers identified as systematic reviews or meta-analyses contained spin. This figure rose to up to 84 percent in papers reporting on nonrandomised trials.

While spin was variably defined across the 35 studies, a wide variety of strategies to spin results were identified including:

making inappropriate claims about statistically non-significant results
making inappropriate recommendations for clinical practice that were not supported by study results
attributing causality when that was not possible
selective reporting, such as emphasising only statistically significant or subsets of data in the conclusions
presenting data in a more favourable light than was warranted, for example writing overly optimistic abstracts, misleadingly describing the study design and underreporting adverse events.
Of the 35 studies reviewed, 19 examined whether particular factors were associated with the presence of spin – however the factors were considered too wide-ranging and unrelated to draw conclusions.

Most of the factors also focused on the characteristics of the individual scientists, journals or studies rather than broader issues in the sector, said co-author Professor Lisa Bero from the Faculty of Pharmacy and research group leader of the Charles Perkins Centre’s Evidence, Policy and Influence Collaborative.

“The contribution of research incentives and reward structures – for example financial and reputational – that rely on ‘positive’ conclusions in order to publish and garner media attention is yet to be addressed,” she said.

“We see an urgent need for further research to determine the institutional or cultural factors that could contribute to such a high prevalence of spin in scientific literature – and to better understand the potential impact of spin on research, clinical practice and policy.”

Lead author, Honours graduate Kellia Chiu, said researchers, peer reviewers and editors had a responsibility to remain constantly alert for spin.

“The scientific academic community would benefit from the development of tools that help us effectively identify spin and ensure accurate and impartial portrayal and interpretation of results,” she said.

“Publishing data alongside multiple interpretations of the data from multiple researchers is one way to be transparent about the occurrence of spin.”

The `Spin’ in published biomedical literature: A methodological systematic review abstract will be presented at the International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication held in Chicago, USA.

4 thoughts on “Study: Science spin prevalent, researchers warn”

  1. “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such a wholesale return of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of facts.” Mark Twain

  2. I notice that the researcher feels there’s an “urgent need” for “more research” into spin in scientific papers.

    “That right there is what you call ironic….”

  3. Most real science is too boring to make the evening news. Most science cited on the evening news isn’t real science, it’s political spin.

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