Friday, September 15, 2006
Why Research Sucks
Lets address one thing right up front, the real purpose of research has little or nothing to do with actually finding real answers or cures. If it did we would not see such studies as have been in the press lately about milk shakes and carrot cake with poly vs saturated fat. I mean do we really need some one to spend several hundred thousand dollars to tell us that high sugar, high sat fat meals are bad for us? Protein causes high levels of satiation, ok fine now we why, but so what, it doesn't change anything. Calorically n neutral meals with a starch blocker don't significantly change post meal glucose response. Yup, I see the importance of that one too, not! No friends and neighbors, the two real purposes of research are; to get funding to do more research; and to support a previously arrived at conclusion. The first of these reasons is perpetuated by the researchers themselves. The data in the studies never is never really conclusive about anything. It always "seems to indicate", "trend towards", "possibly supports", or "correlates positively", but never "conclusively shows" anything. I can explain why this happens in two words, government grants. If they solve the puzzle, the gravy train stops. The people doing this work, do not stand to profit from there own discoveries. Their self interest lies in incrementally moving things forward, not in finding conclusive answers. In the second case, things get a bit more tricky. The conclusion the research is designed to support can be for commercial or political reasons. In most cases, the answers you get are based on the questions you ask. Following this line of reasoning, many company's and lobbying groups have scientist on staff for the sole purpose of figuring out how to ask a question in such a manner as to get the answer needed. These same scientist then design the study within the confines of the question and arrange the parameters to support the conclusion already decided on. If at the end of the study, the data doesn't fit neatly into a hard and fast conclusion, that's ok, as long as it "seems to indicate" etc. Occasionally real discoveries do sneak through. Generally they are the product of independent research and often met with great resistance from people/groups with opposing interests who are much better funded. Cynical? You bet. Wrong? Doubt it.