Mercenary Epidemiology
February 11, 2010 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Mercenary Epidemiology: Data Reanalysis and Reinterpretation for Sponsors With Financial Interest in the Outcome. (.pdf link) When should scientists be required to release their raw data for (potentially hostile) re-analysis? A letter to the editors of Annals of Epidemiology from David Michaels, Ph.D., MPH, public health blogger, author of the book Doubt Is Their Product, and, as of December 2009, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, unanimously confirmed by the Senate despite the dismay of some. Michaels interviewed at Science Progress about Doubt Is Their Product (podcast, with transcript.)
posted by escabeche (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When should scientists be required to release their raw data for (potentially hostile) re-analysis?

When the people who want to examine the data are qualified to analyze it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:42 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

When the people who want to examine the data are qualified to analyze it.

That determination, of course, to be up to the holders of the raw data. Neat trick.
posted by codswallop at 10:03 PM on February 11, 2010

I'm in the middle of reading the interview, but came back to say thanks very much for posting this.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:09 PM on February 11, 2010

Many journals require in their submission guidelines that you make your raw data available to anyone who asks for it - in practise, however, when I ask a corresponding author for something, they'll often say "the server's down"/"the postdoc's on his honeymoon"/"how about you sweeten the deal and put my name on the paper" etc.
posted by kersplunk at 10:30 PM on February 11, 2010

Although in fairness, lots of groups are extremely helpful, especially considering they're basically in competition with you. Yay science!
posted by kersplunk at 10:32 PM on February 11, 2010

The problem with Michaels is he points out the indefensible acts of corporations that validate his claim. No one disagrees about his points on big tobacco.

As for the pharmaceutical industry, the issues at hand here are extremely complex and deal with subjects that epitomize the extremely difficult ethical dilemmas faced in the medical world. A drug can have side effects, including those that are potentially fatal. However, the benefit provided could substantially outweigh the negative side effects. The problem is this creates a huge grey area, and where you draw the line is not an objective decision, nor is it always easy to determine exactly where a drug falls on the spectrum. Further, a lot of things are bad for us, and to a certain extent it should be our choice whether we take those risks. Sure car accidents are a top cause of death year-in and year-out, but clearly people are willing to take that risk.

With lawsuit-happy scientists like Michaels, they fail to see this big picture. Part of the problem is their apparent hatred for corporations, viewing them as evil entities wielding their financial powers to strike down with great vengeance the noble scientist that is Michaels. And Michaels knows he can easily take advantage of the ignorance of the general public, whose perception on issues like this is framed solely from the movie Erin Brokavich.
posted by stevenstevo at 12:45 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, those evil scientists. Taking advantage of the ignorance of the general public all the time. Corporations never do that.

One time 'bout ten years ago there was this movie, Erin Brockovich, with Julia Roberts in it, and she is so hot that it completely swamped all the corporate public relations and advertising ever produced.

Those poor corporations. How can they stand up against such power?
posted by tommyD at 3:52 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks! That was interesting. Too bad it has no relevance to the climate science vs. public policy debate:

"Too often, data reanalyses and reinterpretations are attempts to ‘‘manufacture uncertainty,’’ a strategy used by polluters and manufacturers of dangerous products to avoid or delay regulation and civil liability."
posted by sneebler at 11:17 AM on February 12, 2010

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