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Sunday, July 17, 2016

The future of science

This blog has long delved primarily into issues in information technology in the health care delivery space (the legacy of my recent REC tenure in the federal Meaningful Use initiative). But I recurrently range far afield into significant overlapping (and frequently n-dimensionally mutually confounding) related issues such as economics (including public funding and private capital markets), "socioeconomics/demographics" (e.g. the "upstream")," organizational culture, workflow/process QI, leadership, law/policy/intellectual property, and clinical pedagogy, as well as scientific methodology  per se.

Good article up at
The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists
  1. Academia has a huge money problem
  2. Too many studies are poorly designed
  3. Replicating results is crucial — and rare
  4. Peer review is broken
  5. Too much science is locked behind paywalls
  6. Science is poorly communicated
  7. Life as a young academic is incredibly stressful

To that end, here are some broad suggestions:

One: Science has to acknowledge and address its money problem. Science is enormously valuable and deserves ample funding. But the way incentives are set up can distort research.

Right now, small studies with bold results that can be quickly turned around and published in journals are disproportionately rewarded. By contrast, there are fewer incentives to conduct research that tackles important questions with robustly designed studies over long periods of time. Solving this won’t be easy, but it is at the root of many of the issues discussed above.

Two: Science needs to celebrate and reward failure. Accepting that we can learn more from dead ends in research and studies that failed would alleviate the "publish or perish" cycle. It would make scientists more confident in designing robust tests and not just convenient ones, in sharing their data and explaining their failed tests to peers, and in using those null results to form the basis of a career (instead of chasing those all-too-rare breakthroughs).

Three: Science has to be more transparent. Scientists need to publish the methods and findings more fully, and share their raw data in ways that are easily accessible and digestible for those who may want to reanalyze or replicate their findings...
apropos, two current reads I will soon be reporting on, triangulating with numerous earlier reads.


See, e.g., some prior posts of mine,
to cite just a few. See also the intriguing essay "Four Futures."


Interesting quote from Dr. Hadler:
“Disease” is no longer an elusive monster in the swamp of ignorance; “disease” is prey. It can be defined, parsed, deduced, and sometimes defeated.

Little of this pertains to “health.” Health does not objectify itself. Nor is it simply the absence of disease. Health has temporal and geographic dimensions. Health is inseparable from the context in which it is experienced. Health has a narrative laced with peculiar, often idiosyncratic idioms.  Furthermore, there is a crucial difference between the health of a person and the health of the people.

Science has limitations when it comes to studying health. For one, the studying becomes a component of the experience of health... 
See my post on Dr. Hadler's new book in Fixing U.S. health care by "monetizing altruism"?

More to come...

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