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Another Reason to NOT Trust Every Study.

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Last week we discussed the fact that some studies purporting to have important new information, may be flat out WRONG, because:

  1. Some studies, particularly nutritional studies, may be based on inaccurate data.

  2. The conclusion of the study, even if based on accurate data, may be wrong, IE a misinterpretation of what the data means.

This is important because: Plans Based on Incorrect Conclusions Are Always Wrong and Sometimes Dangerous!

Many Studies Are So Wrong

They Have To Be Retracted!

Even worse than a study that draws the wrong conclusion, are studies based on fabricated data. Many studies are so fake they are retracted after publication and the problem is getting worse. For example, the number of articles retracted by journals has increased 10-fold in recent times. The actual number of studies retracted has increased from less than 100 per year to almost 1,000 in 2014 alone. (SCIENCE, 25 OCT 2018, BY JEFFREY BRAINARD, JIA YOU)

Why Are Studies Retracted?

Fraud accounts for about 60% of all retractions. That means approximately 600 studies per year are retracted after publication, due to fraud and fabrication. Many other studies are retracted due to honest error, not deliberate fraud. However the end result is still data and conclusions that can't be relied on.

Scientists Admit Cheating on Studies

When surveyed, about 2% of scientists admitted they had fabricated, falsified or changed data or results at least once, which is the most serious form of misconduct in the research industry. (PLoS ONE 4(5): e5738.) However, in those same surveys over 14% of scientists report seeing other researchers fabricate, falsify or change data, and up to 72% report witnessing other questionable practices. This suggests that although the rate of self report for fraudulent behavior may be only 2%, the actual rate appears to be much higher.

How Do We Find Retracted Studies?

There is now a searchable database of retracted studies. This database has more than 18,000 retracted papers and conference abstracts dating back 50 years. Sometimes the explanation for why the paper was retracted is unclear. It may be hard for you to determine why any particular paper has been retracted. The publishers are under pressure to not publicize or state clearly why they have retracted some studies.

A recent analysis of about 10,500 retracted journal articles shows that the number of retractions has continued to grow. Insiders claim this is due to the research and journal industry doing a better job of policing itself. That begs the question of how much false data they put into publication in the past, and how much they are still publishing.

Are All Studies With Bad Data Ultimately Retracted?

No! Most likely, the majority of fake studies are undetected and never get retracted. For example a recent review of over 20,000 papers found almost 4% had inappropriate image duplication. Slightly more than half, contained "problematic" scientific images that experts readily identified as deliberately manipulated. However, none of these studies had been retracted. Because this study looked only at inappropriate images the authors suspect the true rate to be much higher when other types of inaccurate data is taken into consideration. (mBio.00809-16) Even with these high rates of obviously false data, most of the 12,000 journals recorded in Clarivate's widely used Web of Science database of scientific articles have not reported a single retraction since 2003.

The obvious conclusion it that a lot of bad data is still in circulation and has not been retracted. The search for truth in the field of medicine or any other field is difficult.

Even Retracted Studies Are Still Quoted

Part of the damage caused by retracted studies is that they are still quoted and referenced, even after they are retracted. (Quantitative Science Studies (2022) 2 (4): 1144–1169) Many retracted studies were quoted by other researchers before they were retracted and oddly enough continue to be quoted even after the retraction. Some retracted studies have been cited MORE after retraction than before the retraction.

Another significant issue is that the retraction never gets as much attention as the original study. The public hears the original claims, but most never hear about the retraction. This is compounded by some conspiracy buffs that believe the retraction is part of some plot to hide the truth.

Bottom Line?

  1. There is a lot of false data in circulation.

  2. You, or your doctor may be relying on false data.

  3. Some bad data has been retracted, but doctors and researchers may still be relying on it.

  4. Most of the fake data has not been been detected or retracted.

How Do I Protect Myself?

Be skeptical! Don't accept every new idea just because it is attached to a study. Look closely at the actual data. Review it with a trusted professional that actually has expertise in the subject of the study.

Take care and BE HEALTHY!

CW Jasper

April 2023

© 2023· Content is Property Created by CW Jasper


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Mary Minor, ND
Mary Minor, ND

As with all things, follow the money. While authors of research are usually required to report financial conflicts of interest, editorial boards are not. In most cases, a reviewer can make up to a certain amount of money from a pharmaceutical company under review before they had to recuse themselves. But there is no enforcement mechanism. That is one reason why a single study is not as persuasive as results that have been replicated by other researchers.


How do I know if this is bad data and been retracted?

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